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!


Return to Sender: Writing

I’ve been pretty discreet about this, but I have begun working on my next short film.

The concept is an idea that I originally thought of for Project Greenlight back in 2014. I ended up not using the idea at that time, and I started conceptualizing my undergraduate thesis film instead.

Since then, that original concept has definitely changed. The idea for Project Greenlight was extremely short, less than three minutes. That was part of the reason why I didn’t go through with it at the time. I felt it was going to be too similar to my other work, and I wanted to take the time to try to make it a bit different.

The struggle has been letting go of that original idea a bit. I held on to that original concept for so long that now that I’m changing it, and making it better (hopefully), it’s been a bit of a process to change those initial visuals that were in my head. I just got stuck in a rut with that original idea that I held on to for years, and it kept rearing its head, even when I was trying to make changes.

Hence why I’ve been keeping it a secret for so long! In order to get to this final draft, I went through multiple versions and approximately 5 drafts for each version. That’s a lot of changes.

Now that I’ve reached a point where I’m happy, and the associates that have read the final draft are happy, I think I can finally move on to pre-visualization and casting.

Keep an eye out for future updates on this project.

3:03 – Production

On April 24, 2016, we finally got around to principle photography on my new short film project, 3:03. We had planned extensively for the shoot, including a plethora of test shots and lighting tests. When the day finally came, we felt very prepared. The day was a success overall.

Our call time was at 3:00, and we gave ourselves an hour of prep time before we planned to start filming at 4:00. Once our actress had successfully gotten into character and our camera was set up, we started shooting (five minutes ahead of schedule).

The first shot that we planned to do would be the most difficult. It was a stabilized shot that followed our actress as she walked from the bedroom to the kitchen, and then to the door. This was the shot that we had practiced on for weeks, and all of that practice really paid off. We had scheduled about 30 minutes to get the shot the way that we wanted, but we got several takes that fit our standards in 15. This set a good precedent for the rest of the shoot.


This was also the first time that we had been able to utilize our Glide Gear stabilizer on a project. It was a big purchase that was made over a year ago, so it was nice to finally put it to good use.

Since our planning was so extensive, we flew through the next several shots fairly quickly. These were a lot of close ups in a confined area, but we had done test shots to prepare and made notes of what lenses we would need, so we didn’t have any problems on the day.

In retrospect, we did face a problem while filming these shots, but it was entirely my fault. Despite having made detailed plans, I thought of a new idea on the shoot day, so I tweaked my plan. I set myself too far away from the talent and the camera operator, so I didn’t see a potential problem that we would run into for the edit. One of the benefits of my new camera is that I can see the shot being captured from my iPad screen, so I don’t have to be right next to the camera operator to see the preview screen. I now know, for future reference, that I need to stay near the talent at all times. It doesn’t matter if I have a preview in my hands, there’s still an aspect of being present that I lose when I’m too distant.


After breaking for lunch, we began set up in the bedroom. The shots we were capturing in this location were decently easy, but we were going to be ending on a difficult note. The last shot was an overhead view of the main actress while she was lying down. Luckily, with all of the time we had saved on previous shots, we didn’t fall behind schedule while setting up the contraption that would eventually give us one of the more stunning shots of the project. It took 40 minutes and several attempts to get the set up correct, and it was a pretty precarious situation, but I think it turned out really well.


Some of the more interesting shots to film will have to be kept a secret for now. No spoilers. I will say that I was worried about the reactions I would get from any passers by. We made several attempts to get these shots exactly how we wanted them, and all of these attempts were made (very quietly) in the hours when our neighbors would be sleeping so as not to create a disturbance. I hope that viewers enjoy them.

For the competition that we’re planning on submitting this project to, we’re required to have a BTS (Behind the Scenes) video. Jason Rugg was wonderful enough to both film and photograph the production process for our behind the scenes needs. He also was a fantastic asset to have on set as we struggled with that overhead contraption I mentioned. I’ll be working on the BTS video soon, and it will be shared here eventually.

It was also incredibly nice to be working with Sarah Sofia Serrato again. There’s an aspect to her performance that really sells the type of stories I’m trying to tell. Her imagination adds a lot of great things to my stories to provide an excellent performance that brings the audience along for the ride. I was very lucky to have her for 3:03.

Stay tuned for updates on the post production of this short film project!

Catharsis: Pre-Production

I’m stepping into the producer seat once again, this time for Catharsis, written and directed by Jason Rugg.

I have a decent amount of experience producing short films, so I definitely enjoy using that experience to help out with films that aren’t my own. It’s an interesting experience that I first got with Rooty. I’m excited to be taking this experience into Catharsis and working with Jason Rugg in this context.

Rugg first sent me the script for Catharsis several weeks ago. In those weeks, it has morphed into a pretty amazing concept. It has the dark humor that Rugg has come to be known for, and it also has a decent level of action to it which is still something that’s new to me. It should be a fun and interesting experience.

Our work with pre-production so far has mostly dealt with casting. We’ve had several issues with it. We had an actress in mind for the lead role, but she unfortunately dropped out, and during that time we found ourselves at a loss. So much of the script had been catered around this particular actress, and it was difficult to find someone to fill the spot. I’m pleased to say that we did finally find an actress who will fit the role. Fingers crossed there won’t be any more issues on that aspect.

Rugg is looking to get Scott Mackay (a radio DJ and a bit of a local celebrity) to play the antagonist in the short film. So far this lead has been promising, and it looks like Mackay will be available. This will be a good deal, both for Mackay with his budding reality web series and for Rugg with this short film.

We recently sat down to formulate the schedule for the film, including when and where each shot would be filmed. This will help out a lot when it comes to the shoot day. While we’re still having difficulties working with actors’ schedules, the overall outlook for the film looks very promising.

We are still currently seeking extras to be in the club scene that will be shot on April 30, 2016. We recently only had a handful of confirmed people, and it would be swell if we could get several more. The opportune number of extras for this particular scene would be between 15-20. The last time I spoke with Rugg about the number of extras it seemed like we could possibly be reaching 16 people. No matter how many extras we happen to get, we’ll have to make due. We’ll see how this goes on the day of the shoot.

3:03 – Pre Production

The idea for my next short film project came from a nightmare I had a couple of months ago, inspired by the paranoia caused by an incident I experienced (similar to most of my other work so far). It took a while for me to actually write the script and make the storyboard for the film. I spent a good amount of time saying the idea verbally to people in order to gauge their reactions.

We’re planning on using this short film in a contest. I’ll keep the details of that a secret for now, just in case this idea doesn’t pan out before the film is completed. If submitted, we have the possibility of winning some equipment and other prizes which will help make even more films in the future.

Since we’re planning on submitting this film to the contest, we’re abiding by the rules of said contest. One of these rules is that the film has to be three minutes or less. This will be a huge difference when compared to my work from last year. I’m hoping the length doesn’t disappoint too many people because I think it will work well for this particular idea.

Writing the script was pretty simple. The idea was laid out in my head from the start. It was one of those really vivid nightmares, the kind where you wake up and can’t get it out of your mind. Actually putting the words down on paper made it seem incredibly simple. It’s very short, sweet, and to the point. I’m hoping the visuals will give it a bit more of a creepy spin.

I just recently finished the storyboard. Visualizing has proved to be one of the bigger challenges with my team because we all work differently. What makes sense to me doesn’t necessarily make sense to the camera operator, so we have found our ways of working around that. It increases pre-production time, but it makes the production process go far more smoothly.

This will be the first project that I use my new camera on. We’ve been practicing the shots for the past several weeks in order to see what kind of lenses, lighting, and blocking we’ll need. There are still a few things that we need to iron out before the shoot, but overall we feel very prepared. Lighting has been a huge aspect to deal with. We’re learning more about how to make a dark scene look dark without being too dark to make out any detail. It’s been a work in progress.

It’s going to be fun to actually start putting this film together. We practiced one of the more important shots last night. This shot needs to be just right in order for the whole message of the film to come across the way we’d like. I don’t want to go into too much detail because the film will be so short that any spoilers would severely damage the effect.

In any case, production will start on 3:03 in a matter of days. I’m very excited to start putting this together and hopefully creep out viewers once again.

Lights: Difficult Decisions

Principle photography for Lights started this past Saturday, January 17, 2015. While I am happy to say that we’re now in production, I have a lot of things on my mind. While the cast and crew may be in production for Lights, I will be teetering between pre-production and post-production for the entire duration of principle photography.

I will go on to explain the situation and what this means for me during production here, since I’ll have to report this to my faculty advisors anyway. I might as well prepare something organized.

Once everyone arrived at the location on Saturday evening, I had to make a difficult decision. This was a decision that I had a feeling I was going to have to make at some point, but I was hoping I wouldn’t. This decision would practically put to waste the blood, sweat and tears of planning during my previous semester. I had to lose my main actor.

I do say that with a heavy heart because I feel that he would have been great in the role he had been cast, but our schedules just weren’t matching up. There isn’t much I can complain about. We’re all adults with responsibilities. He has things he has to do. I have things I have to do. When he’s acting on a volunteer basis for me, who am I to judge? It’s unfortunate, and I am disappointed, but I had to make the decision I made or else the film would have fallen severely behind schedule.

Now what was that decision? On top of having to demote my main actor, I decided to promote my secondary actress to the lead. Thankfully she was okay with that. I am forever grateful. Her availability is far more flexible to work with mine, so there’s always hope that we may even finish filming ahead of schedule or at least we won’t have to pack our days so full of shoots.

That’s the positives at least, but of course the many negatives are what continue to swirl through my mind. Since my secondary actress became my lead, I have to find someone to replace her. Unfortunately in the time I have available, I can’t find a new actress or actor to fill the role and become acquainted with the script. That would set me nearly a month behind schedule, and I can’t afford that.

Since I don’t have the luxury of finding a new actress to play the role, I need to step in, being the only person who has decent acting ability and is familiar enough with the script and is also in my vicinity. This is really rather unfortunate because I was very happy to not have to play a role in this film. One of my main struggles against submitting my work to film festivals is because I’m never keen to share my own performance or to see myself act. I was also looking forward to being entirely behind the scenes. That’s out the window now.

On top of that, since the film will now be looking at a friendship dynamic between two young women rather than a friendship dynamic between a young man and a young woman, I’ll have to go back through the script. I don’t think the dynamic should change too much, but I still need to go back through it to make sure the language sounds right. This takes me right back into pre-production which is not what I wanted at all.

I’ll be speaking with my faculty advisor about this progress/these changes this week. As for the details of the shoot itself, I’ll put that in a separate post in order to prevent this one from becoming too long.

First Wedding Recap

It’s been a while since E Leal Productions’ first endeavor into wedding videography, and I never got the chance to write up any form of reflection. I’m sure that since so much time has passed, I have inevitably forgotten some details that I would have wrote about if I had made this post months ago, but hopefully there hasn’t been too much that I’ve forgotten.

The wedding, which I talked about previously in Breaking into Weddings and Meeting Shauna and Chad, was our first attempt at wedding videography. One of our friends/colleagues from a previous media production course was gracious enough to bring us in to film her daughter’s wedding. We will always be extremely grateful for that opportunity.

Leading up to the job, we were researching away, watching example after example of wedding videos that we could find on the internet. At this point, the only other wedding experience that Erik and I had was editing a wedding video and partial spur-of-the-moment wedding video and photography coverage. Actually capturing the moment as it was happening and being the only people responsible for doing so? That was completely new territory.

For this first endeavor, we brought in two of our colleagues to help out. They would serve as extra camera operators to make sure we didn’t miss anything. I will talk more about this later, but I’m very glad that we did this for this particular job. One of our camera operators was our colleague Freddie, who we had worked with many times before, often as talent in our previous work. Freddie had filmed a bit for a wedding of an acquaintance recently, so he had an idea of what we wanted. Our other camera operator was our colleague Sarah, who has attended several weddings in the past and follows several wedding photo and video blogs/websites to know what clients are looking for and what trends are popular. Sarah definitely helped out a lot in preliminary brainstorming, and she helped us in asking our client the right questions.

On the day of the wedding, we felt that we had a good idea of how things were going to go. The groom had told us his plan to have his groomsmen deliver roses to the bride as she was getting ready and that he would let us know when that was to start, since he wanted to capture it in the video. We were told to be at the home where the bridal party was preparing at 2pm. We decided to show up a little earlier, and I’m glad we did.

When we pulled up in front of the house, the first thing I saw was a groomsman walking up to the house with a rose in hand. We rushed out of the car, setting up our cameras as we dashed up to the house. Freddie was able to capture the last of the rose delivery, and then we found out that most of the roses had been delivered already. This definitely took us by surprise since we had been assured that we would know beforehand. We were quick to jump back in to action where we filmed some footage of the roses that had already been delivered and the messages that had been delivered with them. We made sure to capture every rose delivery that was left. I feel it’s necessary to note here that the photographers showed up about 45 minutes after we did, and they were also taken by surprise that they had missed most of the rose deliveries (even more than we had).

After almost an hour of the four camera operators capturing footage of the bridal party getting ready, both Erik and Freddie left to film some of the groomsmen preparing and then for Erik to start setting up at the church. Sarah and I remained with the bridal party all the way through their bus ride to the church.

During this time, Sarah and I started having problems with our cameras. My issue was very slight, and all came down to me not being as familiar with the camera I was using as I would have liked. A quick call to Erik solved my problem of simply not knowing how to switch batteries. Sarah, on the other hand, was starting to discover that her camera might not be up to task for recording video at such a heavy rate. We found that her camera was overheating often, and had to continually be given breaks in order for her to use it. It’s a good thing I had the camera that I had.

At the church, Erik was making some last minute changes to the set up. The pastor had told us previously that we could record the sound from the microphones through the sound board, but on the day, the pastor had no idea how to fulfill his promise. Luckily, we had a microphone that we would be able to place in the groom’s pocket which captured audio for the groom, the bride and the pastor very well.

The ceremony was quite short, and we were able to get really good coverage for it with the four cameras we had. The coverage is multi-camera with a wide shot and medium shots of both the bride and of the groom. A fourth camera captures reactions from family in the pews as well as shots of the wedding party. It all came together really nicely.

After the ceremony, Sarah went with the wedding party to the bar they were visiting, and Erik, Freddie and I took that time to transfer our footage onto the computer we had brought with us, and to regroup for the reception. We’d had a handful of setbacks throughout the day so far, and the reception wasn’t going to be without its own set of problems.

The reception hall was extremely dark, and also extremely red. For the most part, only a couple of our cameras could get really good video in the room. We all had a light attached to the top of our camera in order for our shots to come out anything at all decent. The DJ for the reception did a really good job of communicating with us the order of events and when things were going to happen. I’m definitely thankful for that. We still had different people giving us mixed messages though which definitely hindered our ability to get the entrance and introductions of the wedding party in a way that we would have preferred.

Overall, the job was stressful, but still fun. It was definitely an experience. We all learned a lot from it that we can bring with us to future wedding jobs, if we get them. We’ll have more confidence to get the shots that we need and to fight for our right to do the job we were hired to do (I’m looking at you, drunken wedding guests!). I’m happy that we were given the opportunity to film this wedding.

At this point, we’re almost done with the editing of the video! That might be another post for another day.