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Michael LaVoie

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Michael LaVoie last won the day on November 11 2018

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About Michael LaVoie

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    Cinematographer
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    New York

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  1. If you're shooting on a soundstage or the film is animated, boards can be a brilliant starting point. You can conceive of the images you want and plan accordingly. An example would be The Matrix which used concept art in the boards and the final film is very close. If however, you're an ultra low budget shoot and you have no ability to build or change anything in your real locations, then you are better off visiting locations ahead of time and doing a board with an actual camera and then laying out those frames in advance so you know what to get when you back for real. It's kind of a camera / blocking rehearsal done well in advance of the shoot with standins and this can save a ton of time later on cause you can pick and choose your angles and know what will work.
  2. I had a similar situation shooting a Barnes & Noble for a marketing video during store hours. It was the giant one near Union Square. The big problem of course, was not being able to turn off their house lights which were a rainbow of mismatched sources and colors. It was horrific on skin tones. But being open for the public, they had to remain on. I had plenty of 4x4 floppies. At least 4 but to be honest, I wanted even more. Don't underestimate how awful the interior lighting may be and have enough grip gear to keep it off your "on camera" subjects.
  3. Another tip. In Premiere Pro, and most NLE's there's a slider for whites that will let you increase them without affecting much of the rest of the picture. Assuming your subject isn't dressed head to toe in white. Best to avoid white and black clothing if possible. This slider tool can be useful if the white background isn't totally even or if lighting it at 100IRE starts to flare the image. Using hardmattes on your mattebox can help you protect the lens as well.
  4. Short films don't make money. Everyone knows this. So if you spent $100k on a 10 minute film you'd want to keep that to yourself as you'd seem like some trustfund one percenter who can blow 6 figures on a hobby project. Many people would potentially find that offputting. You mentioned reputation building in your post and that's a factor. Impressions matter. This is true with your crew listing as well. If you did everything yourself, then use pseudonyms and at least put in those key positions and don't take IMDB credit on everything. I would not suggest making up a 100 person crew cause again, that looks ridiculous. A short film is a calling card and so in many ways, you want to give an impression that's true to who you are and how you want to work going forward. Are you a writer? Then make up a pseudonym for the director name. Are you going to try to be a producer? etc. Only take IMDB credit for the position you eventually want others to pay you to do. In other words, having 12 vanity projects on IMDB where you did absolutely everything and it's clear that they're all your personal projects looks worse than having only 2 that clearly show someone else paid you to be on their set. Which is ultimately what most professionals want. You want to seem qualified and capable enough for a producer who doesn't know you to feel confident hiring you.
  5. I find that if I use my light meter and cross check results against a rec709 waveform and stay within that IRE scale while shooting LOG or RAW there's plenty of room to manipulate the image later because I've already restricted the exposure range. You can shoot tests with greyscale charts next to faces and see how the camera handles different skin tones under different light. Meter those 18% grey charts, spot meter the faces and cross check that with the camera's waveform or the NLE's waveform to determine a guide for yourself. You could probably do the same test with an HDR workflow and get familiar with those readings as well.
  6. The WGA / ATA mess surrounding packaging fees is a huge turning point. This has nothing to do with technology and I don't mean to hijack the thread but AJ touched on it briefly above with WDMV. Many in film behind the scenes are unaware of the development process and how it's been tightly controlled by a cartel of sorts among the talent agencies who have been in bed with all the major studios networks and platforms for decades. Cutting all kinds of deals with them packaging shows and films in exchange for keeping costs down for the very clients they are supposed to represent. It affects everyone from writers to showrunners and producers. Many distributors now won't look at any pitches or packages that don't come from the top 5. You often can't get meetings at HBO or Netflix without someone from the top 5 in your corner. Unless you're a name or known person in the business. We think of "gatekeepers" as development execs but it would seem it's really the agencies who are creating the biggest barrier by keeping producers from being able to reach talent and walling off networks and studios from anyone trying to break in and create something without an agency getting the lions share of the profits. This kind of systemic corruption has poisoned the industry for a while. It's only recently become more widely known because of the WGA standing up publicly against it. Where it's going, who knows but hopefully we'll see a system that is more equitable and fair to the actual creators. Platforms and network earnings have gone through the roof while writer salaries have gone down. Doesn't make any sense why this should be taking place other than pure greed.
  7. "Anti-drug" shows tend to be either cautionary tales of self destruction like Requiem for a Dream which visually beat you over the head with a hammer in their presentation of the horror of addiction. Or a ridiculous satire like Rules of Attraction that becomes an exercise in patience as you laugh uncomfortably waiting for every character to fail. Euphoria has a distinct approach to it's characters, themes, giving them lengthy cold opens of backstory for context. Even if the episode isn't really about them. Though the central character Rue narrates it, her neutral, nonjudgemental tone is neither for or against the characters behavior. As a viewer, you can easily empathize with the lot of them because the look of the show is intoxicating and draws you in to their world completely. So for that reason, I think it's worth a mention.
  8. Anyone else watching this show? Great eye candy...
  9. That article hits the nail when it talks about the whole anti-trust monopoly aspect. Movie studios cannot own the theater chains. It's a horrifying dynamic for that to happen and in the U.S. we learned it early on and passed laws preventing it. Studios owning platforms means less money for producers, less bargaining power, less artistic control and fewer distributions options. Filmmakers can roll with that or rail against it. It will take legislation for the latter. We just did it with music in the music modernization act. This kind of thing is desperately needed for filmmakers to protect them and provide transparency. Producers need to know how many people are watching their films and how that translates into revenue for the platform. How this is "proprietary" knowledge that the platform can legally withhold is beyond me.
  10. Totally agree. When you combine a unique filmmakers perspective with the marketable elements of the industry, you end up with commercially successful "arthouse" film. Paterson is painfully slow but by the end you walk away with a sense of what Jon describes.
  11. I can't honestly fathom why anyone making a movie with no name talent and no distribution plan or marketing plan would ever even expect to earn a dollar back on their movie. They are delusional. It's hard enough to earn a profit even if you have stars in your movie. Look at the problems Annapurna faced recently. They had a ton of great films with stars and they're nearly bankrupt. On paper the company continually loses money though they are producing excellent films with widespread release and very well known stars. So even the top producers are either getting screwed by the system or even they can't figure out the system or it's not the system at all. It could be that it's internal accounting somewhere as film financial structures are byzantine puzzles with multiple moving parts to say the least and even pros fail at this on a regular basis. So no. I have no sympathy for any new filmmaker that charges ahead with no marketing or distribution plan for their movie other than hoping for some 6 - 7 figure sale at Sundance cause that's truly ridiculous.
  12. There have been published case studies showing VOD revenue returns that eclipsed the budget many times over. To be clear though, there's a big difference between just anyone putting up their movie on Amazon and the actual features that Amazon buys and then puts on Prime. I was referring to the latter. For 1 million indies, you can look at Leave No Trace. It earned 7 mill at the box office against a 1.6M budget and the VOD is TBD. I agree it would be awesome to be able to look at that as that's a benchmark for success. Also a film like Hearts Beat Loud. 2.4M gross against a 2M budget. But Bleecker Street didn't disclose what it bought those for at Sundance and finding the VOD revenue is impossible. You have to assume that those films earned something significan't being that they hit theaters, were critically acclaimed and got a widespread highly pushed release online. But yeah, what is the mystery figure? Would love to know. Hello Burn Later and Park Pictures!, Bleecker Street! Chime in! Amazon spent $10M on acquiring Manchester by the sea and it went on to gross much more than that in Box office figures. Now how much it earned on VOD probably also eclipsed it's budget greatly. But yeah, will Amazon disclose that? Probably not. MBTS is definitely considered low budget. It's just not a microbudget indie with no name stars and no marketing budget. Those films shouldn't expect to earn anything back. To earn revenue there has to be a few names and a marketing plan. Leave No Trace is the bare minimum you want to pull together on a shoestring for there to be any hope of revenue.
  13. Low budget indies will always look bad when you crunch the numbers after release but typically titles will gain it back over time through streaming revenue. If a film is good, word of mouth will make sure eyeballs catch it on increasingly wide ranges of platforms and devices. In the U.S. we are undergoing a major industry shakeup with platforms and producers/writers. The issue is centered around talent agencies and their packaging fees. The conflict of interest involves agents lowering wages for writers in their negotiations with networks because they're true interest lies in backend from networks and platforms. Even though their primary fiduciary responsibility is to the writer clients. Apply that logic across the board and you have many people distrusting agents period. Perhaps this will result in greater transparency of the revenue reporting from platforms and agencies and we can start to have realistic expectations and set business plans accordingly. Though I suspect this may take legislation to actually occur. Keeping everyone in the dark on what their films actually earn benefits those at the top in platforms, networks, studios, and agencies greatly. So they don't want this to change. This is where we need a tech solution to disrupt a disruption. haha.
  14. In most business with unusually long work days or business hours there are AM and PM shifts. Makes a lot more sense to do that then run everyone for 16 consecutive hours with probably only 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Having set techs replaced at the 8 hour point would be a huge relief to everyone. Crews that work in teams like that could easily offer producers short schedules without compromising health and safety. No penalties or O.T. Has that never been explored? I did see the documentary "Who Needs Sleep?" so I'm aware that many crew would laugh at the idea of giving up O.T. or penalties and sharing a work day or crew position with a fellow worker but are they a minority or majority of the prevailing attitude? It's awesome if those longer crazy days are soon over and it's just going to be standard 8-10 hour days. Just curious if crew shifts were ever considered at any time.
  15. The questions you want to ask also depend on the project you're hiring them for. I hate answering ads for a DP position when there's no indication of what the actual job is and whether it's commercial or narrative. Be clear and ask appropriate questions based on that so applicants give you relevant reels and information.
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