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The Wonderful World of Lenses

The Wonderful World of Lenses

lenses

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 Director Kirby Voss

An Interview with Director Kirby Voss

Director Kirby Voss

We conducted an interview with director Kirby Voss. Kirby is a driven, passionate director who we have been lucky to work with over the years. He is particularly known for his optimism on set, clear vision, and an ability to bring out truly exceptional performances from the actors in his films.  We were excited for this opportunity to discuss his trajectory and method. 

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

My name is Kirby, I grew up in Atlanta, and I went to college at Loyola University New Orleans. I’ve directed two features, plenty of (horrible) shorts, and other assorted videos. Because of my incredible success, I have a glamorous job … oh wait, I do business sales for a shipping company. Nice job, but not quite A-list. I do however, keep up a steady stream of respectable and paid directing work.

2. You’ve clearly had your sights set on directing for some time – by the end of your education at Loyola you had directed two feature films – what were some of the hardest challenges you faced in your first features? What were the results of some of those projects/how did those films do once they were released?

I realized I was a director at age 14, so it’s been my goal for quite a while. Like (many, many other) filmmakers, I read “Rebel Without a Crew” and decided that I, too, could direct a feature for $7,000 and go to Sundance with it. Turns out, I couldn’t. I directed the feature for about $5,000, but of the 100 people that saw it, 99 thought it was pure rubbish. Unwatchable. Only one person, Felicia Stallard, thought there might be some talent there, and she invested in “Love Me True,” my second film.

Turns out that my biggest challenge (on both projects) wasn’t a lack of money, or incompetent cast or crew, or whatever else … my biggest challenge was 100% me. I’m young, and conveying a cohesive vision to 50 people isn’t easy. Bringing the passion, the leadership – those are easy to me, because I’m passionate about getting the film done. The film literally is my life. But there’s also the stone-cold fact that I’m a young artist, and I make some bad choices. So my biggest obstacle is getting over my ego, detaching myself from my work, and being able to separate good advice from bad advice.

I recently moved out to LA, and I’ve had the good fortune to meet some incredibly helpful, talented, and successful people. A surprising number of them have offered (or been strong-armed) to read my work, and sometimes you just … don’t hear back from them. And you have to recognize that you’re good, but maybe not good enough. Yet. And that’s just the way it is. The industry seems to have a fascination with “first-time” directors who make a film at 27, then go on to make the next Star Wars film. That’s not me. Each of my films has gotten (significantly) better, but I certainly didn’t come into the world a fully-fledged artist. You just have to hustle, learn, and work.

3. 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?

Truth be told, I came to New Orleans kicking and screaming. I wanted to go to NYU or Chapman University, but I had a scholarship to Loyola – so I wound up at Loyola. And it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because I knew, deep down, that there was a 0% chance I would do anything with my life other than be a director. I was going to be a film maker, or I’d be homeless. That’s just who I am. And I feel incredibly fortunate, because I was able to witness, on a very ground level, the birth of next-gen independent cinema in NOLA. I really do feel like just as Hollywood saw young film-makers rise in the 70’s, so too is NOLA seeing a birth of cinema.

The lessons I learned are varied, but I took away a few key axioms: feed your people; you can ask people to work for free once, but not twice; always work harder than anyone else on set; get a really good bullshit detector; don’t try and work on Mardi Gras, no matter how badly you want to; trust your gut – if someone is very “talented” but also an asshole, don’t work with them; trust people with no experience if they’re hungry; be passionate always; always keep learning and creating.

My personal rule is simple: read more than you watch, and write more than you read. Creation is more valuable than consumption, and active learning is more valuable than absorption.

4. There is a lot of ongoing debate about film school vs on-set experience. As a graduate of Loyola’s film program, what were some the pros and cons of that experience?

To clarify, Loyola doesn’t have (or didn’t have, rather) much of a film program when I graduated. I took 1-2 classes on basic video production, but nothing that got into the hard-core rules of film grammar. All of what I know about film-making came from books, actually. I have a list of a few essential books (at the end) that I think are the best to establish a core cinematic foundation for *anyone*, regardless if you’re an AC or a costume designer. Film school gives your connections, but just making your own films and working on sets gives you the hustle. If you can make it through film school, then you can make it through film school (in my opinion). If you can make it working on dingy indie sets, and really learn your craft, and hone that into a job, then you’ve gotten two educations – both necessary. One is craft, and the other is hustle. In Hollywood, from what I’ve seen, both matter equally.

What Loyola did give me was a series of film appreciation classes that I *loved*. I was exposed to film makers that I had never heard of, giants of the craft whose work resonates deeply today: Visconti, Wyda, Brunel, Malle, and so many more. I was forcibly exposed to new cinema, and that was an incredible education. Because as important as reading and creating are, studying film is also a core, essential piece of the puzzle.

Having said all of that, I did attend a film training program called the Global Cinematography Institute (GCI), which was one of the most satisfying educational experiences of my life. It was an intensive 2 week program, full of long days and serious critiques. The program was taught by giants of the craft, from Dan Mindel to Yuri Neyman, Bradford Young to Newton Thomas Segal. We were given the opportunity to study theory and practice, from the nuance of composition and exposure theory to the mechanics of lens flares. A director needs to understand all aspects of her or his craft, and working with some of the best cinematographers I can name was incredibly enjoyable. I think the key is that I was forced to step my game up; I always want to be the least-talented person on set.

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.

I honestly have no idea – I black out once I’m on set. I really do. I am so happy, so ecstatic, and so at home, that I wind up on set (usually absurdly nervous), I blink, and the day is over. I do have something of a superstition – I never eat on set. I’m always up, moving, and jumping around (making an ass of myself). I might have some chex-mix or something, but I never have a real meal. Too many better things to do. For me, a day on set is a full-workout.

I will say one thing I never, ever do is make a shot list. I just won’t do it. I keep it in my head, or I make it up as I block the scene, but I think shot lists are a complete waste. Of course, they’re essential for most film makers. What do I know? Also, I never watch my films. When “Love Me True” played at the New Orleans Film Festival, I was across the street at the bar. I can’t think of anything less pleasant than having to watch my films.

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?

Be the first to arrive, the last to leave, and never, ever sit. Film is a job, just like any other. And I’ve had many jobs, and the one that was closest to film is construction. People respect hard work.

Also, if you’re a director, be ready to die for your actors. Really *love* your actors. When they act, they’re baring their soul to you. No one else. Once the camera is rolling, it should only be you and them. Never betray that, and never underestimate the courage that that takes.

7. What are you working on now?

Whoo-hoo! My favorite part! I’m chest-deep into development on my next feature, a war film called FOLSOM, LA. I have a budget, script, and promo packet, and the big investor search starts up soon. If anyone is interested, please reach out to me at vosskirby@gmail.com. We’re aiming to film in December 2016 – and we’ll be crewing up in a few months!

8. Anything else you’d like to add?

My recommended book list:
Story by Robert McKee
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez
(^^ those are trite, but they need to be read)
Picture This by Molly Bang
Lighting for Cinematography by David Landau
Stanley Kubrick and Me by Emilio D’Alessandro
Every issue of ASC magazine you can find
Cinematography for Directors by Jacqueline Frost
Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
NEVER READ On Directing by David Mamet. Hate that book. He should stick to writing.

P.S. I think you can learn just about everything about directing if you watch JAWS, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List enough times. Also David Lean. Watch his work often.

P.P.S. If you want to be a film-maker, you should probably ignore all of this. If not, then … hi Mom and Dad!

Recently Love Me True officially received a distribution deal – be on the lookout! 

Director Kirby Voss

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 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!

An Interview with Filmmaker Andrew Bui

An Interview with Filmmaker Andrew Bui

Bui 1

We conducted an interview with filmmaker Andrew Bui, an editor/cinematographer based here in New Orleans.  Andrew brings a unique style to all his work and demonstrates a serious propensity for quality, original visual content. His social media presence is not only impressive but also incredibly fun to follow – his work is consistent, deliberate, and very stylistic. We love working with Andrew and are excited to help share his lessons.

1) Please introduce yourself, where you’re from/operate out of, and what you do.

Hi my name is Andrew Bui, I’m a cinematographer based in New Orleans, Louisiana.

2) Tell us a bit about how you got into film – when did you start working with cameras/editing, what were some of your influences, what may have pushed your development?

I developed an interest in video at a young age watching my dad and older brother work our old VHS Camcorder, it intrigued me although I never really understood how to work the camera and wasn’t allowed to actually use it. Throughout my pre-teen years I shifted my focus away from video, it wasn’t until my last year of middle school when my parents had purchased a Sony cybershot. Whenever I got the chance I would “borrow” that camera and make the most random videos. I’d film anything from myself playing basketball to footage of me lip-syncing some of my favorite tunes.

Once I discovered YouTube I realized there was a platform to post my videos to. I’d upload these really bad videos just because, to me it was awesome that you could upload something and than tell your friend to go watch it. I started a new YouTube channel with my friend and throughout my high-school years we’d come up with ideas for sketches and film and edit them, hoping to have one of our videos potentially go viral.

Some of my influences are Ryan Connolly, Devin Graham and Phillip Bloom.

The thing that really pushed my development was when I finally committed to choosing video as a career choice. Before that I had no clue what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I was a kid about to graduate unsure of what career path to go down.

3) A lot of your work has a strong documentary/filmic quality to it. You have a very authentic and “guerrilla” style while still maintaining rigorous visual standards. Can you explain your look in greater detail? What do you look for in your shots and editing?

It really depends on what I’m shooting and the gear I have at my disposal and how much time do I have to pull off the shots I need, but for the most part I like to get as much coverage as possible. I like to keep things as smooth and steady as possible when it comes to camera movement and have been sorta obsessed with investing into the tools that would help me achieve this.

When it comes to editing, a lot of the content I make I upload onto instagram. Recently instagram rolled out an update which allows users to now upload videos up to one minute. Before this update users would only be allowed 15 seconds or less so every second counted. I start off all my edits by selecting a musical piece that I feel fits the overall video. From there I cut the video according to the song making sure to select the most interesting and dynamic shots.

4) A lot of productions we see try to be very “DIY,” “indie,” or “guerrilla” in their practices. In our experience, a lot of this can come off as sloppy or amateur while other times it makes productions look very grounded/innovative. Do you agree with that sentiment? If so, what would you say are some of key differences between “guerrilla” and “sloppy” filmmaking?

I definitely agree that it can be seen as either one. To me it’s always been about how the shot turns out, if it’s a great shot and you used a DIY or Guerilla technique than kudos to you.
If you’re cutting corners and not using the right equipment because you want to save on time or money and the shot turns out bad, well than that’s just sloppy filmmaking.

5) How would you describe the New Orleans film/video community?

The New Orleans Film Community is great but I’d love to see more folks collaborating on projects more often or just shooting something in general. There are a few local organizations that have screenings for filmmakers to showcase their work to a live audience and get feedback from them.

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

Pick up your camera or phone and go outside atleast once a day and film something.
Don’t be afraid to try different techniques with framing and composition.
There are so many platforms to share your work now so use every available social media site to post your content.

Follow Andrew on instagram, facebook, and beyond.  

4 Lessons from Live Streaming for 24 hours

4 Lessons after 24hrs of Live Streaming

Extra Life helps raise money for children's hospitals across the country

Hello and welcome,

So this week we are doing a post-game carnage report of our 24-hour live stream we did this previous weekend to benefit Extra Life. While we consider it a definite success (we raised nearly $1400 for Children’s Hospital New Orleans) and a great collaborative effort with the other participating companies (NOLAnerdcast and Implicted), we still learned a ton from successes and roadblocks a like.

  1. Delegation isn’t enough. You need to be able to trust people to do their job and then let it go. There are a ton of moving pieces when prepping do A) live stream for such a long duration, B) coordinate several participants, C) coordinate all donations, social media, and sponsors. I would often get caught up in the sponsorship side instead of just trusting NOLAnerdcast’s Matt Finneman to do what he set out to do. All it amounted to was wasted time on my end – he performed incredibly well and secured us around a dozen sponsors, way more than we ever anticipated.
  2. Test, test, and test some more. We ran through Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 3.58.21 PMextensive tests of the televisions, game consoles, twitch account, broadcast speeds, and more. Hours and hours of prep and test and we still ran into roadblocks (some avoidable, some not). If we had not spent a ton of time testing everything the evening would have been a disaster. No matter how well you know your equipment, test it all ahead of time over and over again and make sure you have any parts/info you need to troubleshoot when the inevitable snags arise.
  3. Personalities matter. This again goes back to the nerdcast team. They have experience being goofy, opinionated, messing with each other, and more. They were a fantastic on-screen presence and it was our job (inDEPTH and Implicted) to facilitate that. We always made sure to have at least one person in front of the camera either “actively” playing (i.e. screaming at people and making fun of their teammates), providing entertaining commentary, or overall just talking to the audience. People want to see the video games, but at the end of the day a live-stream is watched because of the people in front of the camera.
  4. Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 1.36.54 PM (3)Know your audience. Seems simple enough, but this is exponentially more important when collaborating. NOLAnerdcast draws on a demographic that we do not usually pull – we needed to adjust our thinking, wording, hashtags, what have you, in order to maximize that exposure. Each group can’t be solely responsible for mobilizing their audience, each collaborator needs to work together to compliment the other’s efforts. Matt and I discussed which game launches to build off of (Halo 5 was a big one), which tech specs to trumpet to video and streaming folks, what jokes hit which groups, and more. By the end of the 24 hours inDEPTH Media had dozens of new followers on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. Awesome, right?

Thanks for reading this wall of text! Hit us up @inDEPTHmedia on twitter and instagram and let us know your thoughts!

Cheers,

inDEPTH