Lights, Camera, Action Films 2017

This summer though Xcelerate, there were two separate weeks of Lights, Camera, Action camps. That means there are several films, created by the campers now available for viewing.

“Empty” – When a boy wakes up in an empty classroom, he begins searching for answers.

“Summer Star Wars” – A playful homage to Star Wars, complete with goat people and lightsaber fights. The enthusiasm was strong with this one.

“Escape” – A group venture into a haunted college turns deadly when an escaped convict enters the mix.

“No Strings Attached” – Two friends get more than they bargained for after stopping by a pop up antique shop.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 7

Finally! After two straight months of kids’ camps, I’m officially done with Xcelerate summer camps in 2017. It’s been a long, long several weeks. I’ve had my hand in everything from ukulele to Minecraft to cupcakes and science. Some of these areas I was familiar in, and for some of these areas I was simply tossed in. In any case, it proved to be pretty challenging throughout.

This final week put me back in my most familiar camp, as well as a camp where I was familiar with the subject matter. I thought it was going to be a decently easy week, and in many ways I was correct. In other ways, I was very, very wrong.

I’ll start off by discussing the camp I was a part of that was new to me, but also familiar. The camp was called Digital Artists. It focused on Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m no master in Photoshop by any means, but I do use it occasionally, so there were things that I knew and things I didn’t. I have never used Illustrator before so that was way out of my league. On the surface, this particular camp was easy enough. There were other challenges to deal with though that were more personal for me.

Maybe I was just more sensitive to it because it was the last week of camps. I’d been dealing with kids, ages 7-14, for many weeks. It gets hard after a while. Sometimes the kids really just do not have a filter. Sometimes they say or do some pretty mean things. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s not.

The issue I was dealing with during this particular camp had to do with the kids’ respect for me as a teacher. I know I’m not the instructor. I’m just the Assistant Instructor. It was still pretty upsetting to have them simply ignore me whenever they had a question. They would raise their hand. I would walk over. I would ask what they needed help with. They would either completely ignore me or come out and say they didn’t want to ask me the question. In that regard, it was a rough week, especially being the final week. The end was in sight, and I was definitely feeling it.

Other than that, this week found me back in my most familiar camp. It was the second week of Lights, Camera, Action! We had some repeats from previous years. It’s always nice to see kids return because they enjoyed the time they had. Overall, it was a really mature group. That always makes things easier.

Following the new class outline, we separated the full class into two groups. They split themselves up based on what genre they wanted to do. One group wanted to do an action film. The other group wanted to do a scary film. Guess which group I got put with this time? Yep, another scary movie. They just gravitated to me with no prompting whatsoever. I must just give off that vibe.

Since this is my last week of the camps, the instructors I work with told me they’d do me a solid and not ask me to edit the film I helped make this time around. I had edited ‘Truth or Dare’ from last year and ‘Empty’ from the last camp. Not having to edit this one will give me a much needed break, and it will also free up my time to take care of my other mounting responsibilities.

If you’re interested in seeing the final films from the Lights, Camera, Action camps, be on the look out for an upcoming compilation post of those films in the next couple weeks.

Other than that, my time with the summer camps this year is done. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 6

Week 6 of Xcelerate is complete! The end is in sight. I won’t lie. The fact that I’m getting so close to the finish line is making it harder to wake up in the morning. The list of things I have to do keeps getting longer and longer, and I won’t be able to fully dedicate myself to any of that until the classes are over.

With that being said, this week wasn’t too bad. I had two classes yet again. One of them was a familiar camp, and the other camp was new, but it covered familiar material.

The first class I was working with this week was a photography class. This was the one that was new, but familiar. Throughout the week, the students played a variety of games that challenged their creativity while taking photographs. There were scavenger hunts, a “photo bomb” activity, as well as daily challenges such as taking pictures that interpreted words like “hot,” “blue,” or “wet”.

It was a good time. I think the kids had fun taking the photos throughout the week. On Friday, they compiled all of their prints onto a poster board and had a bit of a show for parents and visitors.

The other class I was working was a familiar one. I was back in the science class (which took part in for two days last summer after a different class cancellation). It proves to be a popular one. There were 25 students in the class this week, all between the ages of 7-10. Take that how you will.

In this class throughout the week, we did a variety of little crafts and experiments. We made a few types of slime, made some chemical reactions, attempted making a watermelon explode, lots of fun stuff. It was also pretty messy. I ended up bringing some old clothes to change into for this class specifically.

There is only one more week of Xcelerate left for me this summer. Let’s hope it’s a good one!

Xcelerate 2017: Week 5

It’s been a bit since I last posted a reflection on a week of Xcelerate. I had a small vacation over the first week of July. No classes were scheduled because of the Independence Day holiday.

During that small break, I was hoping to catch up on rest and get some other work done. I definitely caught up on rest, so much so that it feels like I’m starting over on my morning routine. As for the other work that I wanted to get done, I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked. Alas, my vacation ended, and it was time to get back to summer camp business.

This week brought me back to the computer lab. That always has its pros and cons. There was definitely a lot less set up and clean up than I was having to do in the previous week with painting and cupcakes. That’s definitely a pro. It was also nice to be in the same place all day, not having to travel between buildings while trying to squeeze in my lunch.

The class was about designing worlds, structures, skins and the like for the game Minecraft. I’ve never played Minecraft before. I don’t really know anything about it, other than the fact that the kids love it. This fact made me a little uneasy. It’s never fun to not be able to answer questions as well as I’d like.

In order to combat some of this, I asked for a flash drive with the programs the kids would be using, and the instructor was nice enough to send me PDFs of the lesson plans. Looking these over before the classes kept me more prepared. It was easier to manage.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Minecraft after all of this. It doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. The lesson on command blocks was the easiest for me to grasp out of it all because it’s essentially writing computer code. This is a subject that I’ve definitely had experience in through several other camps at this point.

There are only two weeks left of Xcelerate 2017. I’m approaching the home stretch!

Exit Interview

Don’t let the title deceive you. I’m not leaving any jobs.

This post will be about the short film Exit Interview, directed by Jason Rugg, which I recently produced. Conceptualized as an entry for the 2017 Rode Reel competition, Exit Interview follows a man who doesn’t understand that his ideal girlfriend is just not that into him.

Going into the production of this film, my role was more of a line producer. This means that my main job was to keep the production on time, to make sure that everything happened and stayed on schedule.

Over the last few productions I’ve been a part of, I’ve used Shot Lister to help with this. I definitely have some complaints about the current state of the program, but it has the potential to be a very nice organizational tool. I would suggest checking it out. It might be of use to you.

We had a small crew, but there was a bit more help than we usually have. Rugg was directing. I was doing my producing role. Erik Leal of E Leal Productions was running audio and helping with lighting. Rugg also brought in someone to record behind the scenes video and assist when needed. We had three cast members, and two groups of extras throughout the day.

It was an all day shoot. As a crew member, I was there from 9:00am till almost 10:00pm. All of the scenes were shot at a central location, so break down and set up throughout the day wasn’t incredibly difficult. Overall, the day was very eventful and a good learning experience for everyone involved.

You can view the Behind the Scenes video below.

As for editing, that was a bit of a challenge. Everyone just has so much going on, its hard to set time aside. We managed to get an edit done for the Rode Reel deadline. It’s so nice to see how everything came together in the edit.

I’m a really big fan of how the locations look and the performance of the actress who plays Amy, Emma Baker. She was fantastic on set, and her performance comes off really well in the final film. I’m super pleased.

You can see the Rode Reel submission below!

At some point in the future, there may be a director’s cut that would give a little more freedom in the edit without the Rode competition restrictions. If that comes to pass, I will be sharing that as well.

Return to Sender: Storyboard

Due to some shuffled plans, I was able to start on pre-visualization for my next short film sooner than I was expecting. With my particular team, we have developed a way to start pre-production that runs very smoothly. It happens in stages.

During the first stage, I go through my script, and I think about how I’d like to see it transfer from page to screen. I pull out my own storyboard template, and I draw it out on paper. Now, I’m definitely not the best artist in the world, so my drawings really help no one out but me. (We figured this out while in production on Lights).

In the second stage, we take my drawn storyboard, and we turn that into a 3D visualization. To do this, I work with my cinematographer, and we figure out exactly what I’m trying to say, and we translate that into something that he can understand. In the end, my storyboard is a plan, and his 3D visualization ends up being the actual storyboard.

Return to Sender Shot 23

This process makes production run so smoothly. We can make a plan for shoot days and know approximately how long each shoot day will take. We can factor in set up time, lunch breaks, and factor in room for error. It helps to put together a production schedule, find locations, use time efficiently, and don’t even get me started on how well it works as a plan of attack for editing.

As I mentioned above, this is the process that I’ve developed for my films with the people I work with consistently. I’ve worked as a producer for other filmmakers, and they don’t all do the same thing. It really depends on the filmmaker.

With all that being said, the storyboarding process is now complete for my next short film, Return to Sender. The images included above are examples from that.

We’re still in pre-production, just moving on to the next phase of that. We still have location scouting to do and casting. I’m considering doing casting differently this time around than what I’ve been doing, but that will entirely depend on scheduling. I’m still up in the air about that.

Stay tuned for more updates on Return to Sender as the process continues!

Clare Oaks 2017

Last month, E Leal Productions filmed two employee appreciation videos for Clare Oaks Senior Living. The employees had earned recognition from Leading Age Illinois for their work.

Filming for the videos took place over two separate days. Since the videos were only 60 seconds each, editing took approximately one day per video (including basic edits and color). Both videos include original music by Ryan Cwiklik.

These videos can be viewed below.