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filmmaker

A Filmmaking Update

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A Filmmaking Update

A few big things have consumed the last year or so of my life: I left MTV and joined a food magazine called Delish that has since blown up online with the coolest team ever and I've joined one of the best short film curation sites on the planet, Short of the Week, as a contributor and writer. To say that I'm grateful is the biggest understatement of the year.

Between watching and writing about some of my favorite short films and traveling to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to film all kinds of magical candy, I haven't had much time for personal filmmaking. What I have had time for is figuring out my strengths and weaknesses as a filmmaker both in the commercial and indie space. While I feel a little bummed that my latest short film, The Broadcast, is still not completed a year later, I've realized that taking my time and not spreading myself too thin is the key to success - and keeping my anxiety in check. The NYC film scene is an exciting one to keep up with and I'm naturally competitive. But that also makes it really easy for me to almost burn out on a regular basis - almost. 

So the good news is this: I'm going to complete The Broadcast in the next few weeks, I'm pushing to shoot another short film this winter, and I'll be shooting much more food porn - and eating it - on the daily. I have a camera, some TUMS (for the inevitable heartburn), and a whole bunch of ambition that I plan to use to take me to the end of 2016 and into 2017. 

STAY TUNED.

Sincerely,

Chelsea

Kevin Johnsrud at it again, capturing me in the moment.
 

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Movie Magic

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Movie Magic

Sometimes it's best to tease with a few behind the scenes moments...

I'll be posting a few snippets here from my next short film project, which happens to be my first science fiction!

The Director (me) and the Director of Photography Michael Russo busy planning out out next shot.  Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.

The Director (me) and the Director of Photography Michael Russo busy planning out out next shot. Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.

Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.

Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.

What could be past those lights? ... You'll have to wait and see.  Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.

What could be past those lights? ... You'll have to wait and see. Photo by Kevin Johnsrud.


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Episode 4: The Making of 'Uncovering Eden' That's A Wrap!

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Episode 4: The Making of 'Uncovering Eden' That's A Wrap!

THE FINAL EPISODE of 'The Making of Uncovering Eden' IS UP! Our filming location turns into a little house party after all of our dramatic scenes are finally completed... We couldn't have asked for a better last day to shoot! .... also Kevin's Champagne cam is amazing.

A special thanks to the Clark Family for letting us film in their home!

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Sophie Learns To Swim: A Struggle

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Sophie Learns To Swim: A Struggle

Director Chelsea Lupkin and Director of Photography Michael Russo work with actresses, Ally Thomas and Kailee Shollenberger.  Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell. 

Director Chelsea Lupkin and Director of Photography Michael Russo work with actresses, Ally Thomas and Kailee Shollenberger. Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell. 

I have a short film in the works and it's called "Sophie Learns to Swim" -- a coming-of-age story about a girl named Sophie who has to learn more than just how to swim if she wants to get through her summer holiday. 

The film was shot back in August and my team is just starting to work with the footage -- If you're an independent filmmaker, you know that actually getting the people and the tools to make your project is difficult. Add the fact that we had a major frame-drop issue (discovered after the fact -- I cried), making this film has been particularly hard.

When I say 'dropped frame', I mean that the camera failed to record all of the action. Despite that and having issues loading the footage into editing software and matching said footage with sound, I've been able to piece together a film that I'm excited to show.

I consider "Sophie Learns to Swim" a major stepping stone for five main reasons:

1. I worked with a casting director for the first time. (Sara Accardi found us our talented leads and thirty plus extras within two weeks. Wow).

2. I worked with young actors for the first time.

3. I faced my biggest editing struggle yet and feel that I've conquered the odds against me.

4. In it's rough cut stages, the film runs at about 6 minutes long and will be the shortest narrative I've created yet.

5. This was the second time I've worked on a large scale project with the same crew and I feel that we're really starting to become a serious production team, despite how small we are.

Do I think "Sophie Learns to Swim" is groundbreaking cinema?

No. But I'll be damned, if it didn't make me a better director.

Actors Gavin Becker and Makenna Stergion on set.  Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

Actors Gavin Becker and Makenna Stergion on set. Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

Director of Photography Michael Russo, Head Gaffer and Sound Operator Ryan Hansen, Director Chelsea Lupkin.  Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

Director of Photography Michael Russo, Head Gaffer and Sound Operator Ryan Hansen, Director Chelsea Lupkin. Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

Producer and part-time Assistant Camera, Kevin Johnsrud gets ready to slate.  Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

Producer and part-time Assistant Camera, Kevin Johnsrud gets ready to slate. Photo by Jimmy O'Donnell.

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The Uncovering Eden Movie Soundtrack

This is the title track of my short film, Uncovering Eden, which will be released online in 2015.

This will be a big year of independent film projects and I couldn't be more excited about sharing this with all of you.

I'll be releasing more songs onto this blog in January!

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Day 2 of Filming Uncovering Eden

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At 5:00am I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. I knew that this was the biggest day of filming because of how many people would be involved in the shoot.

Thankfully my Assistant Director, Toro Adeyemi, showed up at the apartment at 12:30am to help me the following day… and to rag on me in any way possible because she’s my close friend and I lived with her for 3 horrible years.

We arrived at a local private school and was let in by an amazing employee, coincidently named Darren, who stayed with us all day as we worked with about 20 or so extras plus our cast and crew.

The first scene we shot was in the hallway of the school lined with blue lockers and amidst fellow students. I kept my ensemble cast in a holding room until I was ready to bring them to set to start choreographing them. Once I blocked out my lead actors, Victoria, Marrick, David and Julia, I had my AD bring down groups of students at a time. In order to make this work, I needed to make sure that everyone knew where they were going to end up: some starting down the hall and walking to a classroom, others grabbing books by their lockers and mingling with classmates.

After my cinematographer, Jason, and I framed up the shot, piecing together how the ensemble would interact with others came together with a few run-throughs.

We had two hallway scenes to work out, one that is early on in the story and another leading up to the climax.

The second hallway scene actually leads into another shot in a classroom. With the jib, Jason and I were able to connect these two scenes with some amazing movement. I think our entire crew would agree that the shot where we follow Edie from the door all the way to her seat is pretty amazing, visually.

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After that, we headed to a small library on location where we see Edie interacting with June, Chad and Darren. We also get to see how mean June is to other students… for a 16-year-old, Julia Sismour blew me away with her acting ability. She is completely captivating to watch and plays to June’s cruel nature. The way that David Laws plays Chad is equally impressive. Chad is June’s right hand man and needed to be very loud in character with not many lines. I chose David because he is excellent at adding little touches to his characters to bring them to life… in this case, his body language and the presence of a hair comb as his prop is pretty fascinating to watch… Trust me, you will understand when you see the film.

Marrick and Victoria’s on-screen chemistry felt so real that some of our crew couldn’t figure out if they were rehearsing or flirting with each other. Either way, they looked great on camera, even for some of our darkest scenes. Both Victoria and Marrick are actors who ask many questions about their characters in order to truly become them. Victoria is wonderful at putting herself emotionally into a scene and channeling inner struggle. I am very glad that I chose them to play these roles.

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Our last scene of the day was on a school’s unused baseball field. Originally we were going to have this scene on some school bleachers, but couldn’t get permission to use any. If there is one thing I’ve learned about filmmaking, it’s always to have a Plan B. In this case, the baseball field actually worked out better visually and we were all very happy at how it turned out.

I find that as a filmmaker, I can’t always get the perfect location, but there is always a way to make it work. In fact, I didn’t have a location for the school until a week or so before we needed to film. I had contacted about 15-20 schools and people either didn’t get back to me, said no, or it was too expensive to use.

…Remember, there is always a way to make a scene work!

That said, I can’t wait for this weekend to film the rest of my story and I will be posting more behind the scenes photos on our Facebook Page and Twitter.

chelsealogotrans

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Day 1 of Filming Uncovering Eden

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On Saturday, August 3rd, I drove to the train station to pick up Uncovering Eden’s cinematographer, Jason Krangel, and cast members Marrick Smith and David Laws.

I had been waiting for about five minutes when suddenly I heard a bang on the hood of my car and loud laughter coming from my aforementioned actors. They clearly had the uncontrollable need to scare the wits out of me… Clowns.

I took them over to the Johnsrud home to meet the rest of our amazing cast, Victoria Pedretti and April Woodall, and crewmembers Michael Russo, Kevin Johnsrud, and Chaz Boyd. (Erik Kristiansen, Toro Adeyemi and Ryan Hansen would complete our crew the following day!)

They bonded almost instantly and I felt a sense of pride for picking everyone involved in this project. The one rule that I follow when making a film is ‘always choose people that work well together’. Having a good vibe on set with a small crew is paramount in creating a successful project.

Once all the cars were loaded with our camera and lighting equipment and the actors were prepped, we headed out to our first location: a small, privately owned grocery store named Centre Fruit Gourmet. In all honesty, I think the owner allowed us to film there not just because he is ridiculously nice, but because my dad regularly buys their eggplant salad on a weekly basis.

Setting up our gear and establishing our lights was a breeze, courtesy of Jason and Mike, and we were ready to film within half an hour.

This was the first time that the cast worked together in front of the camera and it is literally the only scene that they would all be in. Whatever worries I had were quickly diminished as soon as I called ‘action’. It was like I wasn’t looking at Victoria, Marrick, Julia, David and April… I was watching Edie, Darren, June, Chad and Edie’s Grandmother in the grocery aisle… the scene that took place felt real to me in a way that I only imagined while writing the script. Seeing it on the little monitor of the RED Camera and even just watching them all interact was a director’s dream come true.

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In this scene, the cool kids interact with Edie, while her grandmother is blissfully unaware. Darren, played by Marrick, is starry eyed as he says hello to Edie, bumping into the aisle as he passes, while June, played by Julia, cattily assesses the situation. Chad, David’s character, delivers the blow that hurt’s Edie’s feelings. All in all, everyone took direction well and brought this scene to life.

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After a much needed lunch break of beer and pizza, (for everyone except Victoria and Julia who are 18 and 16 years old), we headed out to a public park for magic hour.

The scene we shot was with everyone having fun with some sparklers… I don’t want to give too much away, but this scene is juxtaposed with a very climactic moment later in the film.

We ended up using the Jib for most of these shots and Mike and Kevin kept running back and forth between the actors so they always had a lit sparkler… it was extremely chaotic and a huge amount of fun!

I was afraid we would be caught at some point with all of the smoke we were making and in about 30 minutes, we saw lights in the distance by the park’s patrol…

…Who then decided we could have a few more minutes because they thought it was very cool that we were making a movie and even asked if they could be in it. HA!

15 minutes later, we were told we had to leave because if police caught us there after dark, we would be slapped with a hefty fine. The patrol explained we actually needed a permit to film in the park… cough cough… and were nice enough to stick around until we left so we wouldn’t get in trouble.

I couldn’t have asked for a smoother first day of filming and I can’t believe how nice people were to my cast and crew.

… Day 2 was even better.

Check out more photos and behind the scene material on our Facebook Page and Twitter.

chelsealogotrans

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I’m Terrified to Release My Short Film Online.

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It’s had its festival run, but now I’m itching to release my short film, ‘Flutter’ online.

The problem? I’m afraid to do it. Maybe it’s silly of me, but I’m worried that releasing my short online will somehow degrade its value. What if people don’t like it? Maybe it will be lost in the sea of better short films or worse, not seen at all. Perhaps putting my short film online means it’s no longer important…

Then again, there are thousands of videos on YouTube and Vimeo that are absolutely wonderful and I’m glad to have been able to see them. As a filmmaker, I learn a great deal from watching these films. There is always something to gain from watching, whether it’s an artist’s experience, more knowledge about film techniques, or just a great watch.

Can a filmmaker find success from posting their films online?

Yes. Many artists and filmmakers alike have been discovered on the Internet. Most recently, Fede Alvarez has been thrust into the limelight both for being found on YouTube with his short film, ‘Panic Attack’, and for being hand picked by Sam Raimi to direct the remake of his cult classic film, ‘The Evil Dead’.

That’s a pretty big deal.

In fact, Alvarez had never directed a horror film or a feature, but Raimi saw enough talent in him to trust him to direct a future blockbuster.

Maybe there’s hope for the rest of us small filmmakers? I really hope so.

Either way, there are still plenty of other reasons why I’m personally afraid to release my short film online, namely the ‘views’.

Viewing counts, total plays, whatever they are called… I think about those stats as a sign of success or failure. Somewhere in the back of my head I am also aware that good or bad promotional tactics affects those numbers. Since I am not an expert in that field, I can only pray for lots and lots of views. Hence, the black and white notion of success or failure.

With social media creating a cyber popularity contest, I feel even more pressure about releasing my film on the web. After all, I want people to see my work and like it, but in order to do that; I need to make myself known on the Internet. Easier said than done.

For those of you out there with lots of followers on various social platforms, I applaud you. I don’t know HOW you do it. Personally, I want people to follow my work because they support what I do. The tricky thing is getting my work and myself visible enough to achieve this.

Yet another struggle an indie filmmaker must face, as if we didn’t just make a film.

There are so many things to consider, but the more I think about it, the more I see that perhaps releasing my short film online is a good thing.

After all, isn’t the point of making visual art for people to see it? If the Internet is my only future platform for my short, than it’s probably what I should use.

Since I also plan on creating a Kickstarter for another short I have written, it may be best for people (perhaps future investors) to see the kind of work I am capable of making.

Furthermore, one view online is one more person I can add to my audience. Surely, that can’t be a bad thing? (Unless it’s a critic, but I am prepared to handle that).

I’m sure there are many filmmakers who struggle with the dilemma of posting their work online, but I think I may finally understand where I stand with it.

So what is my film, ‘Flutter’ about?

A non-linear construction of adolescence. Following the lives of three sisters, the film confronts a young girl's first experience with heartbreak. Challenged by the implications of first love and loss, it is up to Kaylin and Olivia to get their sister, Lena through this moment in her life. The bond of sisterhood and growing up are at the forefront of this short film.

I plan to release it April 16th via Vimeo and ChelseaLupkin.com.

chelsealogotrans

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For Goodness’ Sake, Know How to Edit!

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I fool you not!! - Why Indie Filmmakers will take over the world.

Every member of the production team has been there.  The phrase, “hurry up and wait” comes to mind. But the word ‘wait’ stands alone.

I worked on a big commercial shoot a few years ago where I literally stood for an extra hour and a half because the director thought he should get more coverage than he already had. Trust me, he had enough.

A director who takes and takes and takes… and takes the same shot of a scene over and over again from multiple different angles because he thinks that the more coverage he gets will help the editors at the post production house have an easier time of making a brilliant commercial or movie edit is a lot to handle. See this run-on sentence? It’s like that.

FACE PALM.

This is an example of a director who does not know how to edit. As a freelance editor and someone who has many friends who work at post houses, this situation is daunting. Imagine having to look at 25 takes of an actor’s performance only to have to look at 25 more takes of the same performance from another angle (and maybe 25 more for good measure) and finally having to choose which take is the best fit!

Sure, an editor’s job is to put the shots together and ultimately tell a story in 30 seconds or 2 hours.

And yes, a good director should have as much coverage as possible to ensure that the commercial (or movie) will be a successful campaign and appease the clients and producers.

However, there are too many directors out there who go completely overboard and can’t tell when they’ve gotten the golden shot or need more coverage. They cannot tell the difference between overkill and necessity.

In my opinion, a good director should know how to edit. A director who can envision the whole picture and decide what shots he/she needs to make a good end product is someone worthy of the role ‘Director’… Notice the capital D.

Time and time again, an editor will have to work with the footage a non-editing-director has shot. That editor has a voyage ahead to produce a final cut.  It’s an editing nightmare because that editor has to appease the director, the clients, the production company, producers… you get the idea. Without going into tedious detail of how editing a cut in a post production house works, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of heads to please.

That said, working with a director who knows what their end product or final vision in Final Cut Pro or AVID looks like, is someone you want to work with.

Presumably, a director’s job is to take an idea and make sure that the rest of the team sees the same vision and translates that vision into a cohesive product. A director must be able to convey what he/she is looking for to the Director of Photography. A director must be able to direct talent to embody a script that he/she may or may not have written. A director has to make sure that the clients, sitting in the “video village”, are happy with the commercial as it is being shot.

That said, shouldn’t a director know how to edit? Yes. But, all too often, this is not an actuality.

This frustrates me. Some people would argue that a director is supposed to direct and an editor is supposed to edit. Period. However, if all creative people took the time to learn about each other’s craft, everyone would benefit. No one benefits from ignorance.

Please note that not all of the directors I have worked under are bad at directing. On the contrary, they are all much more experienced and knowledgeable than I am in their art.

I merely would like to suggest that directors should learn how to edit to better their ability to ‘see’ what they need as opposed to prolonging an already long 12-hour production day.

For any aspiring filmmakers out there, there is something to be said about being both a director and editor.

With the revolution of camera availability, namely DSLR’s, indie filmmakers can produce their art and have a hand in editing. This is fantastic! There is a new generation of directors, writers, and cinematographers who have an understanding of how to achieve the perfect final edit. This understanding makes them better at their craft.

What can we all take from this?

Power to the Indie Filmmakers! Patience, we will take over the industry soon enough.

chelsealogotrans

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Budget?! What Budget?! – How to Make a Film with the Bare Minimum

So you’ve written a script. Congratulations. Now it’s time to face the realities of production, namely your budget or lack thereof.

For the longest time I thought that making a quality short film or video would take money to produce, but it turns out that that’s not necessarily true.

Did you know that many cinematographers get their big break by making music videos? Usually, music video production is on a very VERY tight budget by industry standards and this forces cinematographers to be… shall we say, crafty?

If you can only afford fluorescent bulbs and work lights, you tend to be more creative than someone with a lot of luxury cash for extra coffee with the producers.

Production companies and scouts looking for the next big talent notice those who are particularly savvy in this regard. It’s impressive to find directors and cinematographers who can showcase how talented they are without gigantic light setups and full frame cameras. Those people are the triple threats. Strive to be one of them.

That said, you can do a lot of amazing things with little or no money in turning your short script into a reality.

When I made my short film, Flutter, I had nothing. Zip. Nadda… ok, I had 30 bucks toward prop food and pizza, but that’s still basically nothing.

What did I have? - Awesome people who knew what they were doing. I happen to own a Canon 7D (insert Canon endorsement here) and that is a more than adequate camera with the right lenses… perhaps you have friends who will let you borrow?

I also had friends who were part of film clubs and classes who had rental access to lights and shoulder mounts FOR FREE. Usually educational clubs and university departments are more than willing to help you make a project if it allows other students to ‘learn’ from the production experience. MILK THIS FOR ALL IT’S WORTH. There’s no need to feel guilty if everybody wins.

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So what about your location and cast? Do a few screen tests of your friends! Leave a few flyers in your city’s film office! Try Craigslist! Hold a bake sale!! Kick in the doors of your neighbors and ask them… no, TELL them that you will be filming in their house and that you will respect their place and offer them film credit and a slice of your aforementioned Pizza.

Trust me, you can accomplish a lot with (at least) a 30-dollar budget.

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See?! Watch the trailer for my film! HERE.

chelsealogotrans

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