#TBT Director Monkeys Around: We considered this beginning for GDG. What do you think? It's not too late to add to the…

Posted by Gone Doggy Gone on Thursday, May 7, 2015

Compressing your Film for DVD

Building the movie on DVD is simple these days, but getting the best looking film is such a pain! Unfortunately, it’s still safer to send a DVD rather than a Blu-Ray even though it looks subpar. So our film is 89 minutes and you can pick a setting in Compressor 4.1 for DVDs and it will build a disc, but I found the quality to be subpar. After messing around with the settings and letting it build 6 different verisons of the movie (which took all day BTW!), you can get your film to look pretty darn good.

The custom setting I ended up going with for our 89min feature was this one:
CBR (BEST) 6.5

The disc ended up being 4.37GB + the audio of 129MB for a total of around 4.38GB which is really good. DVDs have a ceiling of 4.4GB. The first disc I built using Compressor’s default settings was only 3.3GB. That’s 1GB less data of on the TV and it really showed.

You might say, “why not use VBR (Variable Bit Rate)? Isn’t it supposed to be better?”  I did try a few of these out… 1 pass and 2 pass versions and found the CBR was better. I think if our film had more chopity chop action it would have made more of a difference and I would’ve used VBR.

You might also say “why not using a higher encode like 7.5Mbps?” This can be tricky. It will play back fine on a computer, but some DVD players will choke. I gleaned most of the compressing info from Larry Jordan who’s a king at this stuff.

He says the following:

So, to make sure that your DVDs will burn properly:

1) Set your average bit rate between 4.0 Mbps and 6.5 Mbps. (The lower the number, the more video you can squeeze onto your DVD. 4.0 Mbps should allow a little more than 2 hours of video.)

2) Make sure your peak bit-rate doesn’t exceed 7.5 Mbps. 7.0 Mbps is better. (I use 7.2.) This makes sure you have enough head-room to compress active scenes without creating so much data that computers or older DVD players can’t keep up.





Moms of Human Babies Stage Counter Protest

June 4, 2014 (HOLLYWOOD) As busy crowds moved through the Chinese Theatres at Hollywood and Highland yesterday afternoon, they were caught in the middle of two opposing protests—both of which were very emotionally charged. On one side were the moms of “furbabies,” holding their tiny dogs in Baby Bjorns. On the other side, were moms of “real” babies who were caught in the impassioned verbal crossfire as they too dangled helpless and innocent in the baby carriers (which proved very helpful for both sides, as they allowed the use of both hands for picket signs and obscene gestures).

Fueling the fire for the furbaby moms were Pope Francis’ recent comments that couples should raise children, not dogs and cats. An article in Time seemed to sum it up the best: “In other words, all the effort you spend caring for your furry friends would be of better use if Fido or Fifi were children.”

The Pope’s stance that dogs and cats are not to be treated as babies got those who do just that all in a tizzy. And the fact that his statement gave their opposition fuel in this heated debate was noticeably upsetting to the fur baby moms.

“The Pope is behind us!” yelled one protester.

Abby Harmon, who seemed to be the leader of the furbaby protesters, made a bold statement in response to Pope Francis. “Last night the Pope made a statement and I am highly offended, as a dog mommy of a furbaby of my own, that he would say that dogs don’t have as much rights as babies. It is ridiculous.”

Her dog, a yorkie named Laila, seemed to take it all in stride as she hung on her “mommy” in a contraption designed to be used for human babies.

The moms of “real” babies (a term the furbaby moms seemed to find highly offensive) claimed that human babies are the real babies, shouting “my baby is my baby!” and making a clear distinction between the two types of offspring shouting things like “I feed my baby with my breasts, how do you feed yours?!”

The moms of human babies also claimed that it was harmful to the dogs and just plain wrong to push dogs in strollers and make homemade organic gluten-free baby food for them. And some experts have said that many couples use their pets as a way to avoid their relationship problems.

But the parents of pets may have a point. Just like with married couples with kids facing divorce, they have to endure long drawn-out custody battles for their beloved furbabies. They are also fearful of their little ones being kidnapped—just like their human parent counterparts—as pets being kidnapped and held for ransom is fast becoming a new crime trend.

Regardless of which side may be right or wrong, it was clear that all of these mommies cared about their “babies” and that they all had nothing better to do on a Tuesday afternoon.

Those who live in the Los Angeles area and would like to learn more about the “furbaby” phenomenon are invited to a screening of the film Gone Doggy Gone at 5 p.m. this Friday at the Chinese 6 Theatres at Hollywood and Highland. Tickets can be purchased here.


Day 4 – Do’s and Don’ts of Writing, Acting, and Directing

Writing, acting, and directing your own film is something I would only advise a masochist to take on. The only reason I attempted to do this was my co-director Kasi Brown (pronounced “Casey”) and I knew that we had each other to pick up the slack. We’d shot a bunch of sketches and had both worked on films for many years. We knew a feature length film would be vastly different, but we felt brave enough to try. We’ve always shared a creative shorthand with one another, where one of us thinks something, we lock eyes and the other says “that’s perfect! Let’s do it!”  So we set forth with making Gone Doggy Gone, and we weren’t going to let anyone tell us we couldn’t do it. Here are a few examples to help future writer/actor/directors avoid mistakes we made.

Behind the Monitor

Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter and our DP Garret O’Brien


If you think the camera crew or DP can be your eyes as a director think again. They’re doing their job. How are they supposed to do your job as well? Were this a short film or sketch, then maybe it could happen, but not on a feature so it’s best to just let this idea go.

When we weren’t in scenes, we were behind the monitors making sure the shot was ever so right. First we’d check the frame, then run over and act. So many times something would come up with lighting, or a lens change would happen at the last minute and the shot would be slightly re-framed. Since we had our acting hats on, we neglected to run back and check frame. Stupid us. The shot, which had a joke in the frame, didn’t register anymore.  It was our fault because we didn’t switch hats and double check. This kind of thing happens all the time when you’re overextending yourself on set.


Kasi as Abby Harmon, Laila the Yorkie in the middle, and Brandon as Eliott Harmon


Kasi and I played husband and wife and were in nearly every scene together. Stupid us, again. If we’d played different roles then one of us could have been directing while the other acted. This would have made things much smoother. But if you have to do this and can’t be told otherwise, make sure your directing partner is an awesome actor. I was very fortunate to work with Kasi who is “all balls”. She doesn’t know the meaning of half-measures. Her acting brought everyone else’s up a notch. Thank God for her years of acting experience and helping me out when the proverbial celluloid sh*t hit the fan. She was the calm in the center of the hurricane.


Many times we’d set up a shot and only have 3 takes from one angle if we were lucky. When we’d look back at the footage and see there was only 1 take of something, we were horrified. “Are you kidding me? That’s all we got? Oh, yeah… we had an 8 page day with 50 setups, stunts and dogs!” Don’t do this to yourself! You’ve really got to break down the shots of every scene before hand so much that you’ve either got them storyboarded or written out extensively so they can easily be communicated. Although, we did this we could have done it in even greater detail. Plan your shots out like its D-Day. Eisenhower took a full year to prepare that invasion. He took his time, and planned, and planned, and planned some more, and made plans for failed plans, and planned for different plans. That’s the kind of attention to detail you need when you make a movie for $100 or a million dollars.

I hope I’ve conveyed to you why you shouldn’t write/direct/act in your own film or at least some pitfalls to avoid. We were a bit foolish in some aspects, but I’m glad to be a fool and have a finished feature film, than having a script I’m trying to get made.


DAY 3- Stunts, Dogs, Car shots = TIME

The one thing every indie filmmaker wishes they had more of is TIME.  You hear it over and over. But when you’re new at it, you don’t have any reference for what that means.

Brandon and I are first-time directors and when people warned, “Don’t do that, it’s gonna be really haaaaard”, we did what most first-time directors do and thought, sure it’s gonna be hard, but I love hard! Hard is what I live for. If it’s not hard I don’t even wanna do it! And that’s how we came to Day 3.

Lesson 1: Don’t do stunts with your leads the first week of production. Why? Because for the rest of the shoot, make-up has to cover up your lead actress’s bruises so she doesn’t look like a rotten banana. And even with make-up it’s not pretty and will limit the takes you can use in editing. Even worse, a sprained ankle, or a broken bone could put you out of commission permanently. Dumb.

Stunt rehearsal. Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter.

Stunt rehearsal. Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter.

Luckily for us, the stunt portion of our day went swimmingly (despite the bruises), but took up way more time than we anticipated even though we had rehearsals the week before. This left little time for every other scene we scheduled on this close to 7 page day. We thought if we busted ass it would work out, but we also had a dog on set this day like almost every day. A dog IN the stunts. Yeah, I said it.

Lesson 2: Dogs. Avoid them. If you’re the writer as well as the director like we are, you have no one to blame but yourself. And although the doggy star of our film was my own dog (whom I had the luxury of training on my own time) like children, they have a very wide margin for error and take more… time.

They also like breaks, and snacks, they’re easily distracted, they take a long time to go poop, and even if it’s your own dog, the Humane Society shows up to protect the interests of your dog. More time and patience required. Which brings me to a very important point.

DAY-3-JILL'S APT (CANON-RAW) (SC 45) 6-web

Laila and her “stunt double”

INDIE FILMMAKERS TAKE NOTE: The Humane Society no longer offers it’s services for free through SAG-AFTRA. They now (since January 01, 2014) charge $500/day for union and $1,200/day for non-union whenever you have an animal on set. Read about it here Humane Society Rates 2014 . Had that been the case when we shot GDG, we never would have been able to shoot it at all on our budget. If you’re poor and writing an indie film, start scratching out that animal role now.

So, we’ve survived the stunts and the dog, the sun is going down and we still have two scenes (1 1/8 pages, 4 actors including the directors)…in the car. There’s a couple challenges there, but we’ll stick to the car and talk about having directors as lead actors another day.

Lesson 3: Shooting dialogue in cars when you have no money for fancy stuff like process trailers and awesome camera mounts (complete with the CHP you need to maneuver the streets of LA legally) is asinine. Our good friend and fellow indie filmmaker Denis Hennelly, warned us about this early on in the screenwriting stage of production. He had some great advice. Any time you can write the actors getting out of the car and talking on the side of the road, or anywhere else, but in that car, DO IT. Why?

There are only so many seats in the car. If you have 4 actors, or 3 actors, there’s room for a sound guy (maybe if he’s tiny), or a director, the camera guy has to be there, so who is doing the 3rd and or 4th actor’s lines that you kicked out of the car? Someone has to drive and act at the same time. You can see the problem here, right? Bad sound, Bad direction, Bad acting, Compromised safety??? Take your pick. For the next 17 days we got schooled.

 Rehearsal Car Scenes. Edward Winters, Kate Connor, Kasi Brown, Brandon Walter.

Rehearsal Car Scenes. Edward Winters, Kate Connor, Brandon Walter, Kasi Brown.

Having been through a day like that, I can honestly say I am much wiser for it. From now on when I write a script I will pause before I write a stunt, a dog, a child, or a car scene. I’ll politely remind myself of Day 3 and write for the budget I am working with, so that more time can be spent producing quality. And maybe someday I will be lucky enough to have one of these!

Process Trailer

Process Trailer


Day 3 – Chase Scene

Today was one of the hardest working days of our lives. We were all tired from the previous days efforts shooting a bar out. Kasi had to perform a lot of stunts, chasing one of the characters through a house, and outside, then up and over and embankment, then run down all the steps and chase a car. It was totally grueling for everyone. Luckily, our crew held together and the following day everyone showed up to set! Thank you crew!


Kasi Brown and Brandon Walter go over the shot list between set ups.


Day 2 – The Bar and Kent’s Apartment

DAY-2-BAR (CANON-JPG) (SC 120)-15

Garrett O’Brien (DP), Brandon Walter & Kasi Brown set up for a shot with actors Shaina Vorspan and Will Mulligan.

Continuing with the theme of location scouting – the bar was found using the same divide and conquer technique

  1. find a location close to your other locations to keep you on schedule
  2. make sure it fits your script
  3. make sure that it opens later in the day.
  4. make sure they have parking for the truck and street parking for crew cars.
  5. BEG them to allow you to shoot there.

If you cannot afford to ‘shut the place down,’ as we could not, then start shooting at 5am if they open to the public at 12pm.

On this particular day things didn’t quite go as planned however. Our first day cruised by ahead of schedule and on time. Our second day started with a big fat monkey wrench thrown in it as our location rep, aka bartender, over slept. Luckily the owner was able to rouse him when he didn’t answer our phone calls. Five hours later and its a wrap as the bar was opening to the public and we had another location to shoot that day #ambitious #indiefilmmaking!  As with all days on a limited budget, the schedule is always the hardest to overcome.  But all in all – shooting out four locations in two days was nothing to shake a fist at!

Thank you again Nate for letting us shoot at your place! Luckily our cat sized dog #dogsizedcat didn’t tear up the place in a war of ultimate cuteness! Can’t wait to hear more beat-boxing from our actor @J_Hendricks20 check him out – especially at 1:38 when the beatboxing begins!

DAY-2-KENT'S APT (CANON-JPG) (SC 31,11,63,30)-04

Director, Kasi Brown measures her Teacup Yorkie Laila to a giant playful cat.


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