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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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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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Why the Short Film ‘Uncovering Eden’ Needs to be Made.

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Everyone, all over the world, has seen or been bullied at some point in their life.

Bullies make us question ourselves and think less of the things that make us different. However, it is these very differences that make us unique and beautiful individuals. We should not shun our diversity, but embrace it because it is this diversity that gives us our self-identity.  Without it, who would we be?

The short film ‘Uncovering Eden’ is a coming-of-age drama about self-identity and anti-bulling.

The story follows 16-year-old Edie as she just begins to grow into herself in one of the most challenging environments of her life so far: high school.

Bullies and cliques are the cost of high school royalty and it embodies almost every social struggle imaginable. It is not a surprise that the greatest battle young adults face today with bullies is in high school.

Yet, not many films address the consequences of bullying, let alone why it happens.

As it stands, most films that are truly about bullying are documentaries. 2011’s ‘Bully’ about bulling in U.S. schools is probably one of the few films to document the true consequences of bullying and became a worldwide campaign.

But why does bullying occur? When I was writing the screenplay for ‘Uncovering Eden’, I thought about this a great deal.  Therefore ‘Uncovering Eden’ addresses the generational and cultural differences that have inspired such behavior.

The character, Darren, who is the object of Edie’s affectation, not only participates in some of the bullying that goes on but is also bullied, himself. He experiences peer pressure from his friends and intimidation from his Father, someone who is not only from an older generation, but a patriarchal figure to him.

‘Uncovering Eden’ is a film that tells a short story with a much wider picture. The internal struggle that Edie faces results in consequences with her relationship with her grandmother. Yet, despite everything that she does and strives to be, she will never be a member of the crowd that she so hopes to be a part of: Edie is too different from them.

‘Uncovering Eden’ is a short film that needs to be made because it addresses the nature and consequences of bullying. This short film sends the message that being yourself and not allowing others to dictate who you are, is worth everything.

Please make a pledge to this short film’s Kickstarter Project!  You can donate ANY amount that you want, no matter how big or small… Anything helps and we need your help in order to make this film become a reality!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chelsealupkin/uncovering-eden-a-short-film

… You can also get awesome rewards including an HD Digital Copy of the final film, a DVD with special behind-the-scenes footage, a signed copy of the production script and even posters!!

‘Uncovering Eden’ is a short film that needs to be made!!

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Full Synopsis:

Edie, 16, lives with her grandmother who tries to instill moral values and life lessons by using her Jewish heritage as a tool.

However, Edie finds her grandmother’s words to be constricting and tries to separate herself from what she thinks is the problem: her Jewish faith.

At school, Edie wants to fit in with the popular crowd, particularly because of a boy named Darren whom she has feelings for. But Darren and his friends, June and Chad are not the most tolerable of characters and their prejudices toward others not like themselves, drives Edie in a downward spiral.

As Edie struggles to find her way through adolescence, faith, and her first love, she learns that her actions have consequences and perhaps the steep slope she has chosen to go down will risk more than she ever thought possible.

Follow us out on Facebook or Twitter to be a part of this film!

@UncoveringEden or @ChelseaLupkin for more details.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Uncovering.Eden@gmail.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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