Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gobble x3

To all our excellent and wonderul and kick-ass fans (and anyone who may have stumbled here by accident who also just happens to be excellent and wonderful and kick-ass), a very very happy Thanksgiving! May you eat your guts out. Oh, and go [NAME OF FOOTBALL TEAM HERE]! I mean, if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not, but if you are, great.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Triple Threat

Hugh Jackman is People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” What does that have to do with LFTI?

Nothing. It’s just that I don’t have any music or a crazy behind-the-scenes story to post and it’s my day to write on the blog.

Although I suppose it’s further proof that the people at People don’t watch our show. It’s yet another year than neither Steve or myself have even been nominated. (Okay, Steve I can understand but why not me?! Is it because that person on YouTube called me fat?!)

Anyway, there I was, watching the Today Show, minding my own business and wondering if Ann Curry was going to survive her altitude sickness (she’s on Mt. Kilimanjaro you know…it’s this big thing…), when suddenly, from the computorial area (another veiled reference to Episode 8) Tanya let out a brain-melting shriek.

All right, that’s not true. Tanya doesn’t “shriek.” And my brain is made of nearly unmeltable Tungsten. I was just trying to be dramatic. Tanya shows her frustration in a simpler way. It’s more of a steady pecking. Incessant. Constant. Pecking…

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s move on while I still have a place to live.

The reason that Tanya was annoyed with People Magazine (online edition) is that the story about Hugh Jackman started with this sentence:

“He’s a triple threat: a star who can sing, dance and wield a weapon.”

Obviously, you can see her issue.

If you can’t, then chances are that you’re not a theatre actor (and if you don’t spell “theatre” the way I just did, chances are even greater that you’re not a theatre actor …or British).

Here’s the problem. A “Triple Threat” is an entertainer who can sing, dance and act.

That’s right. “Act.” You see, the term was coined back in the day when “acting” was a “skill” and people were called “actors” because they could “act,” because they “trained” and took their craft “seriously.” They weren’t called “actors” simply because they happen to be standing on a “stage” or in front of a “camera.”

Sorry, I went a little crazy with the quotes there. But that’s how much it annoys me too. My indigence spilled out to “innocent” words.

See, this isn’t just a problem that is confined to People Magazine. Lately it seems everyone is using the term incorrectly. I think it was Access Hollywood that referred to Brandy as a Triple Threat because she can sing, act and design clothes.


Maybe I shouldn’t be upset. At least they included “acting.” But this term actually has some meaning to those of us who know its true definition. To say that Brandy is a Triple Threat because she can design clothes cheapens us all. Most of all Brandy.

Brandy may well be a true Triple Threat. I don’t know how well she dances (I pay about as much attention to Brandy as she pays to me).

The same goes for Hugh Jackman!

“Wielding weapons” has nothing to do with it! Sure, it’s an impressive skill, but it’s not part of the “big three.” It’s something that an actor puts down in the “Special Skills” section of their resume. Right next to “can drive a stick shift car.”

I mean, if we start using the term Triple Threat all willy-nilly then who’s to say what skills constitute a Triple Threat? What can be included? Playing the saxophone? Cooking eggs? Stealing husbands? Tying cherry stems into a knot with your tongue?

I’m sure some people would love for those to be qualifiers. Angelina Jolie, I’m looking at you.

I would love to be a triple threat. I can cook eggs and play the saxophone (not at the same time…though I’ve never tried…hmmm…). Sadly, I don’t think those qualifications should count. I’ll have to settle for being a “Double Threat.” Although it could be argued that being good at two things isn’t that “threatening.” I think my official status is Actor/Singer who can “move well” (that’s code for “too fat to dance properly”).

And if “Triple Threat” continues to be thrown around without regard to its original definition then why the hell stop at “Triple?” I’m sure that Hugh and Brandy have other talents that they would like to have considered when others generalize their abilities. They’re snappy dressers. Quadruple Threat! They’re rich. Quintuple Threat (as well as a threat to the proletariat)! They seem like they might be tender lovers. Sextuple Threat!


My point is…

What’s my point? Oh yeah. My Point is that it’s Wednesday and I’ve posted.

ROBB (“Milluple Threat.” And, yes, I’m including my ability to create a motion-tracked vignette in Final Cut Studio’s “Color” program. So there.)

Don’t forget to watch LFTI! Where all the actors are at least “Single Threats.”

Steve is good with fonts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What a Bunch of Turkey!

I have been waxing long-winded about stuff here lately, so here's a nice fluffy post that will mean nothing to the future of humanity, as did the others.

I got an e-mail from a friend who obviously does not subscribe to our large, easy-to-see iTunes podcast. He was asking me, "Hey, what does Guy's shirt say in the Thanksgiving short?"

On the off chance you have the same question because, like my friend, you obviously do not subscribe to our generously-sized, clear-as-a-crisp-New-England-winter-day iTunes podcast, here it is, in all its easy-to-see glory (click to see it even bigger):

Ah! Turkey! On board! I see! On board! A turkey!

Glad to clear that up.

We have a long and illustrious history of making custom shirts for Guy to wear. "Daddy's Boy" for episode 5. "This is My Best Shirt" for episode 6. See? Long and oh, so illustrious! When it came time to do a Thanksgiving short, we knew Guy had to wear something Thanksgivingy, and the chances of just finding something ready-to-wear were slim. Especially in September, when we actually shot the thing. Not much turkey going on in September.

I came up with two T-shirt phrases, probably just one morning in the shower. Or maybe while making graham crackers and apple butter. Though, come to think of it, I have not made graham crackers and apple butter in a few years, and I have showered recently, so it was probably more likely the former.

Two choices. Yes. The first was what you see above, and the second was "I'm with Turkey," also having the same arrow pointing to the stomachal area. (There's a veiled reference to episode 8 in that last sentence. Bookmark this page and come back in January to see what it is!)

We chose "Turkey On Board" because we had to choose something. We had trouble deciding, really. "Turkey On Board" is silly, ridiculous, and conjures a pretty amusing though unoffensive image. "I'm with Turkey" is a triple-fronted assault, referencing the famous "I'm with Stupid" shirts, pointing at a stomach full of Thanksgiving turkey, and, most disturbingly, suggesting that Guy is pregnant with a turkey baby.

It is perhaps that last item that made us go with the easier-to-digest (ba-dump BUMP!) "Turkey On Board."

Just so we can have some fun, I have re-designed the graphic, and we can now see what it would have actually been like had we chosen the other phrase. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Goin’ Nuts

Peanuts that is.

It’s time for another “New Music Wednesday!” This week I’ve got something that I’m pretty proud of.

If you’ve watched LFTI you probably already figured out that I (and Tanya and Steve, and Kathy when she was producing) like to create little “homages” to other works and styles (and if you don’t watch LFTI then what are you doing reading this?! Go watch!). Most of the time they’re not very specific, but in last year’s Halloween special and this year’s Thanksgiving special the tributes to Charles Shultz’s Peanuts are pretty obvious.

For “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Mason” I did a little Vince Guaraldi-esque theme and incidental music (and there was a tick-or-treater wearing a Charlie Brown ghost costume). We also created a “wall scene” at the end with cutout images from the short.

This year there were plans for another wall scene. But I wasn’t happy with the quality of the cutouts. They just weren’t right. So I got the idea to Peanuts-ize the cast. I think it was fairly successful. Especially since I was really rushed. In fact, in order for it not to turn out a total shambles, we pushed back the launch of the Thanksgiving short by a day.

The music was again a very important element and one that I looked forward to doing. Of course, once I actually started writing the music I had second thoughts. This kind of thing always seems so breezy, but I have to tell you, it’s incredibly stressful. Anyone who has ever stared at a blank page or lump of clay or white canvas or jeans that don’t fit anymore will know what I’m talking about (that last one may just be me). There’s the excitement of achievement mixed with an almost overwhelming despair that the result won’t meet your own expectations.

Incidentally, I think that initial feeling of despair is the reason that most people don’t do things of an artistic nature. It’s a high hurdle. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the only hurdle. How many times have you heard people say “I can’t draw (or whatever)! Nothing that I do ends up looking (sounding…) like it ‘should’!” What those people don’t realize is that almost everyone has the same thought. Even great artists (I’m not including myself here). The only difference is that they went ahead and did it anyway (and then, in some cases, tortured themselves for not living up to their own impossible standards).

Okay, so the music: Luckily, I was able to get over the early speed bumps and get the music done. It always helps to have a deadline.

This is pretty much the same type of deal as the music for ITGP,M. Only this tune is more upbeat. I once again incorporated a portion of the LFTI theme Fine Print. This time I used the bridge of that tune for the “b” section (or chorus, if you will) of this one. Now I think that I have culled all of Fine Print, so I don’t know what will happen when I write another special! I cross that bridge when I come to it I guess.

I’ll do another side-by-side comparison for you and you can hear for yourself. If you know the LFTI Theme then you may recognize what I mean. It’s the section that goes “They never told you the catch, some restrictions come attached…” You can hear a repeated and transposed cycle of that basic melody in the middle of this song.

So, without further ado, New Music Wednesday, Life from the Inside and I are proud to present the theme song from Thanks for Nothing, Mason, aptly titled…Thanks for Nothing, Mason.

Fine Print:

And also for your listening pleasure, here is the theme from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Mason:

As always, check back here for other exciting blog posts and new music!

Just so you know, I only yesterday received a new recording interface and it pretty much kicks ass. So the music quality will only go up (at least the recording quality, I can’t vouch for the content)! In fact I predict that the music for Episode 8 will rock. Some may even say it’s bodacious, bitchin’ and/or rad.

Stay tuned…


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Indie = Ingenuity

This past weekend, we finished shooting episode 8. Thrilled? Oh, good! I was hoping you woudl be.

[An aside: I seem to have a very particularly dyslexic issue when I type. Ninety-five percent of the time, I transpose the "l" and the "d" in the words "should," "could," and "would." I am constantly right-clicking to correct my misspellings of those three words in particular, and it bugs the royally-sanctioned crap out of me. Just for fun, I'm going to not correct those misspellings if they occur in this post, just so you can see how prevalent the problem is. Thank you.]

This weekend saw some firsts for LFTI: first on-location shoot that was not a friend's apartment complex; first speaking extras roles; first car shoot; first blue-screen shot.* Yes, we were really pulling out all the indie stops this weekend. Our location was craftily secured by using a tiny little white lie so that we woudl not have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars in fees. We had to shoot in a car without the proper mounts, which again saved us who knows how much money. And our blue-screen was more like blue-flannel.

I went to film school in Boston. Most of the projects on which I've been involved then and since have been low or no budget, just like LFTI. When you have no money to spend on all the tools and talent and equipment and rights and licenses and fees and protections that come with a huge budget shoot, you have no choice but to get creative. I genuinely mean "creative" here... creativity is not only key to a good script and good acting, but also good shots and lighting and music and editing and so on and so forth et cetera. The creativity that goes into writing and acting and art is a bit different than the creativity that goes into cinematography or editing, say. While technical prowess is usually helpful in any facet of life these days, it definitely helps on a shoot, so you know what equipment you have and how it works. From there, you can use your limited resources in ways for which they may not have originally been designed.

One teasingly fine example is the blue-screen we concocted on Sunday night. Yes, we needed a blue-screen. Why? Never you mind why, just enjoy the tale.

We had two choices for shooting a particular part of our script: Do some guerilla shooting on a real location, or create a cheesy facsimile using a blue- or green-screen. The cheesy facsimile seemed to fit best, so we chose to shoot against a screen. Robb and Tanya ended up having a blue sheet that, while not the exact blue of your finer, more expensive blue-screens, was just perfect for what we needed. We used two light stands to frame the sides of the sheet, then a third light stand taped across the top to finish the frame. VoilĂ ! A simple blue-screen set-up.

Sorry for the blotches in the picture. I must have had something on my lens. Thank goodness you can still see our make-shift blue-screen set-up. (More-hyphens, any-one?)

I mentioned that we shot in a car for the first time over the weekend. I have had to be very creative in cars before, including sitting in an open trunk to shoot a car behind me as we drove through an industrial park. But Sunday was a challenge. We needed to get useful shots of Lou and Jennifer having a conversation in a car, and normally that woudl require using a follow car or a fancy hood mount. We can not afford such things as hood mounts, and we coudl not shoot on some little-used street somewhere with an illegal follow-car arrangement because the story required the car to be driving on a major road. The only way to get decent shots of Jennifer and Lou was to position the camera in front of them, near the dash, as we drove down Culver Boulevard.

We first tried a two-shot, with me holding the camera in the far front corner of the car from the back seat to get Jennifer very close up on the left of the shot and Lou in the distance on the right. That looked too peculiar, so we had to get the camera on the dash more toward the center of the car. This was simple for Lou's shots; I just sat in the passenger seat, leaned far forward, and held the camera by the windshield. When it came time to shoot Jennifer, though, I coudl not sit in the driver's seat and shoot and drive. So we did this:

Robb drove while I crammed into Corrie's footwell. She had to act with her knees almost in her face while I held the camera out on top of the dash, trying not to get my own bushy-ass hair in the frame. Kinda hard, but it was the only way we coudl do it without literally hanging out the window or something worse. I had to duck a few times as cop cars passed us.

Oh, and because there coudl be no one in the back seats, tanya had to sit here during shooting:

I understand it was rather uncomfortable and cold.

LFTI is about as independent as you can get. Often this means "MAJOR SUCK." But not for us. We want to be sure the show is as good as possible. That requires much of the aforementioned creativity, in things like the blue-screen and the car, but also in any number of things like music, credits, editing, graphics, props... I mentioned last time how proud I am of our show for the small details we add, but I am also proud for how hard everyone on the show works to get it just right. I can't wait for everyone to see episode 8. It'll be sometime in January, which is a ways off, but it shoudl be worth the wait!

[Seven. Yes, seven instances of the transposed "l" and "d." That's 100%, not 95% as I'd said. Perhaps I need more fiber in my diet, or a larger nightly dose of radiation.]


*Though some keying was done for the Mizz Chi erotic workout video, I believe this was the first time something other than a white wall was used. Forgive me if I'm wrong on that point. Robb or Tanya can correct me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Twas the Night Before Filming

We're gearing up for another weekend of filming around the old LFTI household.

No, we don't actually all live together, weirdo.

What does this mean exactly? It means we've been emailing each other all day, reminders of what we still need to pick up, what we need to bring, etc. I spent my lunch hour on a walk with Robb, going over my lines.

See, the excitement is building because tomorrow we shoot on location. With extras. I KNOW!

This may seem pretty "par for the course", but we've only shot on location once before. And we've never had extras. So tomorrow is going to be very fun for us. And hopefully the extras too.

I'm not sure how much else I can tell you without giving the fun stuff away. Oh, I made a rather large order at Papa Johns today, so I can tell you that we will have lots of pizza on set tomorrow. And lots of neon colors. And pastels. And baked goods. And 1 rather large piece of cardboard. And someone doing an impression of a dead celebrity.

Oh yeah, it's going to be fun! And maybe a bit scary.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thanks for Nothing, Mason

Now if your name is Mason, that headline could seem like an out-of-the-blue insult. Rest assured, it’s not.

It’s the title of out latest Holiday Special!

That’s right! Last year’s Halloween Special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Mason, went so well that we decided to do another, similarly themed, short this year.

Personally, I love these little holiday specials. They’re a lot of fun for me. I especially enjoy the music. It’s a good excuse for me to get my “Vince Guaraldi” on. Not that I need a good excuse, it’s more like I need motivation. And there’s nothing like a looming deadline to actually get me to do it.

So, I hope you enjoy our latest video.

And I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Don’t forget to vote today!