Another 48 Hours

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Another installment of my old MySpace blogs, this one telling the tale of returning back to the 48 Hour challenge experience, a year after The Lords of Dragonhoth …

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Revenge:  Another 48 Hours

While we were happy with how “Dragonhoth” came out with last year’s 48 hour film challenge, the second time around we wanted to raise our game up a bit.  The judges of last year’s event seemed to react less to laughs and more to technical achievements.  Of course we didn’t want to sacrifice laughs or character, but we did want to make a faster paced, fullbore comedy, with bigger laughs and better cinematography.  And hopefully this time we’d make a comedy that was so obviously a comedy that the judges wouldn’t put it in catagory of drama like last year (seriously…  SERIOUSLY?!?).

Two downsides of ‘Dragonhoth’ was that the movie was basically “talking heads”, and that the audience for the film was a bit narrower than our other films.  On the upside, however (and in comparrison to this year’s effort), “The Lords of Dragonhoth” concept was more unique and there was more time taken for character.  And in a lot of ways it makes it much more memorable movie.

So we spent twice as much money (and when I say we of course I mean me), amped the energy up, made the comedy more outrageous and visual, and really put time (or atleast as much as a 48 hour movie challenge will allow) into the visuals.

Last year our Theme was “Heroism.”  This year it was “Miscalculation.”

Here are production stills from Squishy Studios “The Hand You’re Dealt”, a comedy about the world’s worst tarot card reading and the hilarity that ensues!

We feel pretty good about it, although it’s hard to get perspective on it at this point, but everyone did a great job.  I’m hoping for the best (but expecting the worst).  Come out and support Squishy Studios if you can make it!  Yay!


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Friday, February 29, 2008

“The Hand You’re Dealt” Wins Big At 48 Hour Film Challenge

It was crazy and nerve-wracking last night, but a big success for Squishy Studios at the 2008 Almost Famous 48 Film Challenge screening.  We fared much better than last year with out new movie “The Hand You’re Dealt.”

In the entire film festival of (I believe) 45 entries, from all the different judging catagories tallied together (of Story, Cinematography, Style, Use of Prop/Line, Use of Theme), we placed as the 4th highest movie in the challenge.  The three awards we recieved were:

* 2nd Place Comedy

* Award For Outstanding Story

* Outstanding Individual Performance:  Amanda Schaar

Man alive, it’s really nice to finally win a g-damn award.    🙂   Enjoy “The Hand You’re Dealt” and let me know what you think!  Thanks to everyone who helped make it and who showed up at the screening! Kudos also to the other filmmakers, especially to the ones that made kick ass movies but totally got hosed by the judges. “La Force avec toi!”

Lords of Dragonhoth – Old Blogs

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The following is a collection of old blogs originally posted on MySpace about the production of “Lords of Dragonhoth.” (Yay!)

This is an interesting look back to Feb. 2007, which was essentially the beginning of the “Squishy Studios brand”, as Dragonhoth was the very first movie of ours to bear the production company name.

Billy The Blood Donor was still in post-production, but at the time we still had no clue what to call our production group. The Lords of Dragonhoth was our first foray into the public arena of competition after a long absence in the local filmmaking community.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

48 Hour Madness

A gang of us stepped up to a 48 hour film challenge just recently. What that is, if you don’t know, if a competition where you’re given by the organization running a line of dialogue, a prop, and a random genre, all of which must be integrated into your movie, which cannot exceed the length of 7 minutes, and must be written, shot, editted, scored, and turned in 48 hours later. Yeah, so not much sleep.

The team was a noble band of skalliwags … Myself and Craig Curtis were both co-writers andco-the-guy-whose-fault-it’ll-be-if-the-movie-totally-sucks. Matt Mesnard was production manager, Basl (aka Jennifer) McIntyre was grip (and colorer of character sheets). Rob Stutsman again brought his knowledge of lighting backtalk to the stage. Our fine cast was made up of Brian Blackwell (my brother), Craig Curtis (as the Evil Gamemaster), Chelsea Monty (yeah, we actually had two girls on our movie set!), Jacob Burton (his virgin outing on filmmaking … we were very gentle with him), and the glorious Steve Noettle (who plays The Stranger in ‘Billy The Blood Donor’). Oh and Logan helped somewhere, sort of.

So our line of dialogue was “I don’t believe you.” Easy enough. The prop was a crumpled piece of paper, BUT it had to be crumpled on screen. And we didn’t get a genre … that was the big hit we were bracing for … no, instead everyone got the same Theme. The theme was “Heroism.”

After about an houror soof walking around Arizona Center, bashing our brains against each other … Craig, Logan, and myself finally settled on an epic battle of good versus evil … afterall it’s the movies that best incorporate the Theme, and that other stuff, that get the highest marks … Yes, a night of heroism over a melodramatic session of Dungeons and Dragons! 🙂

And so “The Lords of Dragonhoth” was born. We wrote the bastard into the wee hours of the night, coming up with a script that was 10 pages long … too long, we should have gotten it down because the final footage ended up being nearly a 14 minute movie (and remember 7 minutes is our cap). The production was long and hard and early and late, but went off without any drama. Before we started we had a big breakfast get-together at Dennys, where I consumed a lumberjack breakfast. Editing was grueling but fun nonetheless.

I did get some sleep, about 4 or so hours each night. No sense in turning in an incoherent movie made by the living dead. In total a stagering 80 groups signed up. You see, this wasn’t just about getting out there with our “A Game”, it was also about competition. In the end, however only about 60 groupsturned their movies in. And then began the long week of waiting to see the results. The way it would go down is … only the Top 20 would be screened in competition for awards. The lower 20, aka the Honorable Mention 20, would not but would still be screened in a movie theater anyway. The 20 below that, which I shall dub the Shameful 20, would not be screened. They had all made terrible movies and would have to learn their lesson. Yes, as I said before, a very long week and one very long night to see where we placed.

Yay! We got in the Top 20! Now begins the even crueler period where we wait for the screening night to see if we mearly scraped the Top 20, or if we are triumphant. There’s several possible award catagories, all with first, second, and third places, so there’s plenty of chances to take something home.

The screening is tomorrow night, and yes I am really nervous. It’s been a long while since I’ve had anything in open competition. And no, it’s not an honor just to be nominated. 🙂 I’ll post the movie after the screening so everyone can check it out. Yay!

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Friday, March 02, 2007

48 Hour Movie Results

And the winner of the 4th Best Drama of the entire film festival goes to … Squishy Studios?!? Uh …………… What?!?

Judge for yourself. Is “Lords of Dragonhoth” a comedy, like we all thought, or a drama in disguise?

Right. So either there was some clerical error or someone has a grave difficulty distinguishing drama from Extremely Obvious Over-The-Top Melodrama! And I sincerely don’t want to brag, but we really did get some of the biggest and most consistent laughs…

Some of the Best Comedies, seriously, got a silent reception. One, which placed somewhere in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th Best Comedy got only one or two chuckles at the end.

Ah, you gotta love this world. It’s better to be severely confused with a smile on your face than to be sad and disappointed any day of the week.

The turn out was great, though. A number of co-workers from the Phoenix Zoo showed up, which meant a lot to me.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dragonhoth at the Phoenix Comicon

“The Lords of Dragonhoth”was selected to play at the 2008 Phoenix Cactus Comicon. The bonus to that was getting to go to the huge, crazy comicon for free.

We also saw Wil Wheaton (from Star Trek: The Next Generation), Peter Mayhew (aka Chewbacca), and just hoardes and hoardes of kids dressed up as their favorite anime characters. It was really insane.

The highlight, in my personal experience, was bumping into Bracken Batson. We were partners in crime from high school, through college, all the way to “Forever Midnight.” It was great to see him again, and after nearly ten years, it felt like no time at all had passedl. Well, we were actually both a bit more over weight, and slowly dying inside atleast from a biological stand point, butother than that…

The showing was really well recieved. It got huges laughs. Some guy was POUNDING on the table with laughter, it was great.

Well, without further ado, here’s the movie…

Billy The Blood Donor Blogs

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Thought it might be interesting to include a sample of some of the old Myspace blogs from the making of “The Constant Epiphanies of Billy the Blood Donor”, our no-budget feature film.
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Monday, August 07, 2006


Post-Production has begun again! Oh, now it’s over again.

Nathan here. Just a quick update for curious minds. Logan and I bought our own edit system (a used mac with Final Cut Pro) so we can restart post-production and finish this sucker. Well, as soon as we got it home, the thing develops one of them show-stopping type technical hiccups which grinds us back to a stop. Sucks, but we’ll probably have it fixed in about a week or so.

A few weeks ago Logan and I attended a pleasant little three hour seminar about film festival strategy. While it was, by in large, not particularly all that wonderful, I did get two or three really important questions answered, which is good, because now our film festival strategy is now completely different.

What the plan is now: have a private screening for the film, inviting those who helped make their movie, their family, and a few friends. But the important detail is that it will be invitation only. This then excludes it from being a general audience World Premiere … which is what these festivals wants. If we start renting spaces and showing the movie to anyone who wants to see it, we screw ourselves over … atleast until the movie has hit one or two solid festivals

The first fest we’re aiming for is the Sedona International Film Festival, and then the Phoenix Film Festival.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Principal Photography Complete
Whew! Principal Photography is DONE! All the majors scenes with all the major actors are in the can (…although there is no “can” with digital…).

That last weekend was particularly brutal, specifically in the troubleshooting department. We couldn’t get the location we needed and were force to jury-rig our office scene cut-aways in a hallway. Car problems, turned off cell phones, and all the usual hiccups caused several scheduling migranes. But, in the end, we achieved the primary goal: wrap Daniel for the movie. Daniel Brodie (aka Billy) is literally in every scene in the movie, so finishing his work on the film is a big deal. Plus, now he can finally shave! 🙂 I’m extremely grateful for his commitment, which for this project has been longer investment of time than even any of the crew members (excluding myself). Yay Billy.

So, the kinda stuff that still needs to be shot are the Happy Red Drink Commercial, some inserts of locations, and the remaining Nurse and Stranger scenes. It could probably knocked out in one full day, but I doubt the scheduling Gods likes us that much…

I’m hoping the wrap party goes well, we’re preparing for that at my house. I sent out the invites a few days ago. Next up is finishing the edit, shooting what’s left, and getting some real music.

-Nathan

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The End is Near… in a good way

Hey, Nathan here!

Just a quick production update. This weekend (May 26, 27, and 28) we’re finishing principal photography on Billy the Blood Donor! Yay! That means all the main actors will be wrapped. There’ll of course still be a few “second unit” kinda stuff left to shoot: the Happy Red Drink Commerical, some exteriors, and those shots with the Stranger …

So, this means editing will soon resume, and that the wrap party is coming up. I’m still figuring out when and where… I’ll let you know.

A second clip from the movie is coming to the website soon, probably after this weekend … so stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rough Cut notes

Hey everyone! Nathan here. I don’t know if everyone would be interested in this, but here is a sample of some of my notes from screening the Rough Cut (or feedback I got from others). Of course I left out stuff like, “Man, Logan sucks! Why does Logan suck so much?!” and “Did Logan even read his own script?!? Why is he doing that?! OMG!!”, etc.

Hopefully this will give you an insight into the whole editorial process. There may be context missing, but that just makes it more … uh, exciting!

SAMPLE OF THE ROUGH CUT NOTES

* Add more transitional time between coffeeshop and American Blood scene. Maybe shoot something with Billy outside before hand.

* Coffee shop: Still too slow in the beginning. DAMMIT!

* Coffee shop: Billys stand in triumph is awkward in cutting.

* Life Is But A Dream scene: More ‘laugh time after Shays “It could be.” It gets a big laugh and people wont hear the next line.

* We need something looming after Billy & Frank 2, to move into the more serious “getting to the bottom of this” mood. Maybe sort of a Billy POV coming down the hall. Something for the audience to change gears.

* Billy & Sherry at Sherrys house color correction is too green in parts.

* Angry Crowd scene: cut the inaudible line, the bad line, and the Clinton line. Just cut from the arms pointing to Are we the best Billy?

* After Lionels Tour, the overhead shot of the board room, the table looks too wrinkly. Craig says it makes our movie look really low budget (which it is of course). Darken it or just go to close up? I can fix it in photoshop and repaint the image of the table.

* Its been said twice now that Lionel’s tour is just a BIT too long, which I never felt, but where to trim?

* Billy and Sherry at ASU: Cutting is too restrictive. Look for more options.

* Is Billy sleeping on the doorsteps at American Blood too much? Cut it? Shoot something to prop it up?

* Lower Depths: Got a really good response, but tighten up just a bit.

* Board Room: Need more shot variety on Rochester.

* Need a better transition into slo-mo sequence.

* Final Confrontation: Add Logans reaction to “Farty the Space Age Dinosaur”. It was pretty good reaction, I just left it out for some reason.

* Billy & Frank #1: Still too long. Take out Jazz Odysessy (a line even Logan admitted he didn’t understand)??? That might help. I need to find a way to cut and emphasize the demo tape rather than trivialize it. The test part is unecessaruy, but I cant find a way around it.

First teaser poster for “Billy the Blood Donor”

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Rough cut impressions and your own concept of the movie

Nathan Blackwell:

The feedback from the rough cut is really good! There’s still a lot of room for improvement, of course, and a lot of that is being discussed. The first screening went the best. Maybe it was just the energy of seeing it together for the first time. Even I hadn’t seen it all in one sitting until then.

I’m finding it’s important, at some point in time, to watch your film (alone preferably) and burn a final opinion of it in your mind. Like a snap shot you hold on to, for better or for worse. Because, you’ll soon find, your own image of what you made will be rigorously tested. One of the first lessons you learn when screening your movie to complete strangers, or even close friends, is that they’ll have wildly different opinions about everything. One will say “this actor brings down the whole production!! Can you recast them?! I think you should…”, while someone else will say (about the same actor) “they were my favorite! Why aren’t there more scenes with them, dammit?!”

When these kinds of passionate opinions first fly at you, you take everything to heart. It’s all very serious. Sort of like when I was writing drafts of my first feature film, Forever Midnight, I’d distribute copies to people I knew or didn’t know. From that, whole characters would get rewritten or killed off, subplots would be called into question, and mostly dire of all, I’d forget what I thought the story was about.

Right, so I don’t do that anymore. Oh, sure, I give out copies of scripts I’m working out, but just to people whose creative compass I trust, like my friend Craig who’s also a writer. He knows what to say that will help in terms of writing, he shares my sense of humor, plus he’s easily bored and will tell you so.

I guess the moral of the story is just take it all in stride. But I always listen carefully for what they’re really trying to say. Feedback is always imporant, but make sure who have a certain confidence in yourself as an artist. Now, I’m the first to criticize my own performance hell, I can’t bare to watch many of my own movies because I keep tearing them apart.

Usually the serious ones I can’t really watch again. The funny, goofy movies have atleast a certain charm to them.

I think next bloggitude I’ll post some of the rough cut notes I’ve made, or got from the others, just for the hell of it. Not all, mind you … but some. 😉

The very first teaser image released for the movie.