Saturday, February 27, 2010

A week of prepping reels and resumes

Coming off the Playground Media Group fiasco, last Monday I dove into updating my reel and resume in preparation for carpet bombing thirty five post houses, thirty three trailer, two DVD content.

Step one was to have Happy Hour Creative upload my trailer for "Bangkok Adrenaline", which they did that day. Then to incorporate that and the final hi-rez "Book of Eli" spot they uploaded previously onto my reel.

This process of buying mailing supplies, a spindle of DVD-Rs, resume paper and envelopes, calling all post houses on my list to verify that the contact person I'm referring my materials to is the same as last time, then updating the reel, resume, cover letters, printing out DVD labels, slimline case inserts, mailing labels, return address labels, putting the DVD labels on the finished reels and inserts in the slimline cases, printing those resumes and cover letters, packaging everything up, and heading to the post office has always been extremely time consuming. After five days (and a need to do some re-polishing of the reel now that the new trailer was in and fine tuning some of the wording on the cover letters), I'm now at the point where a good chunk of the work has been completed, but there's still a few things left to do.

It didn't help much that, after heading back to the gym on Monday and hitting it a little harder than maybe I should have, I became sick. Not to mention very, very achy. By late in the week I was coughing a lot with an extremely sore throat, congestion, and headache. By the time Friday came around I was burned out with working on everything. I had to stop and pick things up on Monday, taking a two day break to clear my head. What's left on the list is to print out all the resumes, cover letters, mailing and return address labels, DVD labels and slimline inserts, burn DVDs, then the packaging conveyor belt begins.

An e-mail exchange with Chris at Happy Hour while downloading "Bangkok Adrenaline" found work picking up with them. He said the next project they get in they'd need another editor for. So I'm naturally hoping that happens sooner rather than later.

Still trying the find meaning in the whole Playground thing. Everything happens for a reason, and there was a reason why I suddenly found myself out of work again. Was it because another, better project was looming at a post house I'd be more appreciated at? Whatever was intended by this sudden change of events, I need to discover it before I have to pay my rent by March 15.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Curious Case of Playground Media Group

Well, there certainly was a major turn of events on Friday. I've been thinking about what I was going to write here to describe what occurred. Fair and balanced? A little gouging perhaps? I realize I just need to say it as it flows out of my head, and however the thoughts unspool onto this post, so be it. Think at this point I just need to say exactly what's on my mind. So here ya go...

After starting work at Playground Media Group one month ago, cutting a trailer for "The Bounty Hunter" and a featurette for the "Cougar Town" Season One DVD, both to great feedback about my work and producer repore, I was basically told that things were 'not working out' and they needed to 'cut their losses'.


I was informed by Brandon (the post production director) that, ultimately, the promotional department at Sony Pictures was unhappy with all of "The Bounty Hunter" cuts and decided to pull the contract out from under Playground, opting to head back to the original trailer house that had cut the first trailer for the movie. This somehow was funneled down to being my fault, which of course is untrue. Why? Because the three women at Sony who were in charge of giving direction on this project....gave very little direction at all! Their notes were incredibly scant and generic, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous and absurd, culminating in a phone call that came after viewing my third cut where they literally and angrily hung up on one of the production people at Playground. That was pretty unprofessional. This also combined with the fact that the producer I was working with, Liz, had never produced trailers, instead having worked exclusively on television DVD featurettes. How could they assign someone so inexperienced in theatrical marketing to a project that needed a special 'eye'? This was red flag #1.

Amazingly, after five versions, there came a cut that they really liked. So once the supposed final cut went out the door (and before I knew Playground lost the contract on "The Bounty Hunter") I picked up speed on "Cougar Town". BTW, when I started this project I was told that there was a specific budget amount of $3,500. If we went over that amount, a new agreement would be made with myself and the studio (ABC, in this case) for additional days and money. However, when I went into Brandon's office to drop off my invoice for the previous week I was informed that once the $3,500 budget ran out, any hours or days over that time would not be paid for. Red flag #2. Not the standard way a post house works a budget. In fact, no matter what happens on a project, you always get paid for your time.

So basically from 12:30pm last Tuesday, I was working for free on "Cougar Town". I remained there hammering away for three and half days after that. Showing Liz my first complete cut Friday morning, she commented that it had great energy, the music was working, and the pace was pretty solid. The only changes she had was to add a couple of interview bites and a couple of dialog scenes that I needed to locate by watching sections of individual episodes. This would be a little time consuming, so Liz decided to go to lunch while I worked on things.

About an hour later, as I closed in on finishing those minor changes for her review, Brandon came by the edit bay, closed the door, and informed me things were not working out.

I was kind of dumbfounded. What?!

I knew my work was solid on both projects based on my assessment, as well as Liz' and even Christopher's (the head of the company), and firmly made the case that I was certainly not to blame for client or producer miscommunication. I learned a little later from the graphic designer (who I'd gotten friendly with) that she'd always been two-faced, in this case telling me that my cut looked great, then heading to an edit bay down the hall and confiding with another editor that my entire piece would have to be recut because it wasn't 'there' at all. A very unprofessional lack of communication. So at this point I was looking at weeks of work in front of me coming to an abrupt halt.

But my being told my services would no longer be needed was just the half of it.

The good news: Brandon had come to my bay with a check in hand. The amount of that check was another story. The bad news: they were only going to pay me $2,000 for my work on "Cougar Town", not the $3,500 I was originally promised and had even billed them for. The $2,000 was a so-called 'buy-out' because the first cut had not gone out the door yet. Even though for professional reasons I couldn't show it fully, I was pissed! Again I state, no matter how a project goes at ANY post house, you always get paid for your complete time.

A couple of side notes about the people I was working with...

Liz had this curious habit of interrupting the cut in mid-viewing to give on-the-spot changes. Usually a producer will watch the whole thing down while taking notes. Not sure how she's managed to work for Playground over the course of the last three years. But then again, CEO Christopher never seemed like a straight shooter to me either. Always 'on' in a pretentious industry way, it was obvious that he treated editors, graphic designers, and technical people merely as tools. They weren't individuals, they were just a means of doing the work that made the money. Yes, you certainly see this attitude sometimes at various post houses, and the industry in general for that matter. But his demeaner was particularly brisk and impersonal. One day while he, Liz, and I were all in the edit bay hammering out what we thought the women at Sony wanted (again, they never seemed to know themselves!), he turned to ask my opinion, ending with 'you may speak freely'. What, are we in the military here? 'Permission to speak freely, sir?'. Give me a fucking break.

Anyway, after Brandon waited for me to get my stuff together, he walked me to the door. Along the way I wanted to stop and say goodbye to the audio editor / sound designer. He was a pretty cool guy (we connected as movie fans) and was shocked to hear I was leaving so abruptly, giving me his card to stay in touch. Afterwards, I headed straight for the bank to make sure and cash that check immediately. Had no problem.

A one might think differently, but telling me the truth about why I was being let go was yet another mishandled situation. The normal procedure for when things are not working out with a freelance person is to tell him or her that the project is 'being reassessed' or 'coming to a halt for a period of time' and that they would be contacted when or if it started up again, or for any future projects. That way the post house doesn't have to deal with the potentially ugly situation of someone getting angry, causing a scene, stealing copyright material, etc. Wouldn't it have been easier to just tell me the same to avoid any of this (if I had been that type of person, of course)? Instead they now risk bad press being spread around by an editor who feels cheated. Just doesn't make sense on their part.

So ultimately they STIFFED me for $1,500. And to just to call it what it is, I became a SCAPEGOAT for their loss of "The Bounty Hunter" and a victim of Liz' two-faced producing style. That was pretty apparent just minutes into my exit conversation with Brandon. This has never happened to me before, and I realize it was not my fault in the least. Just poor project management, poor handling of client relations, and really poor communication. All adding up to the fact that I am way more valuable to be associating with a post house that has unacceptably poor concepts of working with freelancers.

I truly believe this happened for a reason. The checks I received for my work allowed me to get my rent paid and level off with some other debts. With time on my hands now this week, I am turning my full attention to putting together all those reels and resumes I've been trying to get done, packaging everything up, and getting those materials in the mail as soon as possible. I just contacted Happy Hour Creative today to have them upload a copy of my "Bangkok Adrenaline" trailer to add to my reel as well. Chris did say they had gotten busy and that they'll more than likely need me for the very next project that comes in. Hopefully something will come of this soon.

I feel pretty confident that the next gig is right over the horizon. And because everything happens for a reason, I believe my time at Playground was cut short to make room for a better opportunity. Just need to focus on what's next.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Cougar Town" rough cut

My first rough cut for the "Cougar Town" DVD is almost done. At this point it looks like I'll be pretty much done with this project by end of week. Still no word yet on what exactly is going to happen next here at Playground.

Talk of my possibly having a week off in between projects was cut down to a couple of days as of last Friday. Moving forward, I'll be taking on either "Desperate Housewives", "Private Practice", or "Grey's Anatomy". In the meantime I'm also trying to keep in touch with Chris at Happy Hour. Just sent off an e-mail yesterday looking for an update.

Now that I have a proper hi-rez version of my "Book of Eli" spot, I need to replace the previous version on my reel, begin preparing cover letters, print resumes, burn DVDs, then package everything up to mail out. With the ten hour schedule I have at Playground, time is somewhat short to cover a lot of ground in the evenings. But I need to squeeze that in as much as possible. Also hoping to get a copy of my "Bounty Hunter" trailer to add to my reel as well.

Things are SO much better now that I'm working! I feel like the financial weight of the entire state of California has been lifted off of my shoulders. I just need to stay working and keep my eyes open for what happens after this gig.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"The Breakfast Club": 25 years after detention

"Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong. What we did WAS wrong. But we think you're crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us... in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct?

That's the way we saw each other at seven o'clock this morning. We were brainwashed."

Twenty five years ago today "The Breakfast Club" premiered, and would not only become one of John Hughes most iconic films, but would speak to a generation of teenagers by giving them a voice. Tonight, I'll be having an anniversary screening in the 10th Box, and once again remembering the passing of John Hughes.

An article this past week in Vanity Fair about Hughes as remembered by his two sons, John III and James, is incredibly insightful, touching, and dotted with revelations about the man whose imagination and work I hold dear. If you're a true John Hughes fan, this is REQUIRED reading! You can read this comprehensive chronicle here, that includes some amazing photos of artifacts Hughes held onto from many of his films.

The wealth of manuscripts, notes, screenplays, drawings, etc. is like unearthing a lost Beatles track for me! I would LOVE to see some of this vast work published at some point. Here's hoping!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Playground: the end of week three

Finishing up my third week here at Playground Media Group, continuing work on the Season 1 DVD for "Cougar Town". In and around that, I've also been making repeated changes to the trailer for "The Bounty Hunter". There's sort of this 'too many chefs in the kitchen' vibe over at Sony Pictures, and with very little input from them as we attempt to put together what they really want. It's been a bit frustrating, but more so for the producer I'm working with rather than me. I'm just happy to be cutting this.

Next week will most likely bring "Cougar Town" to a close, and I've been told that other projects await my editing touch. However, elements for those projects are still being written, shot, and compiled. So there's a possibility that I may have a week or so break and then come back. On the financial side, I'm hoping this does not happen and there is a seamless flow from one week to the next. I'll probably have more info by next Wednesday or Thursday.

"The People vs. George Lucas"

I REALLY want to see this!!! This film, chronicling fans reaction to George Lucas constantly messing with 'The Holy Trilogy', will have its world premiere this March at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas. The article on contains the following as an overview of what to expect:

"The fan-fueled filmmaking process, enabled by the internet and easy access to video-editing technology, made it possible for Phillippe and his crew to connect with legions of fanboys and fangirls around the world, then stitch together a crazy-quilt indictment of Lucas’ handling of the Star Wars legacy." Click on the photo of George to read more.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Goodbye Sprint, hello AT&T!

I am now an x-Sprint customer! Due to some technical issues that have caused my phone to be inoperative for much longer than should have ever happened, I just switched over to the world of AT&T; unlimited anytime minutes and 1,500 texts a month.

At Sprint I was paying at least 40 more dollars a month and had a 3,000 minute limit on anytime minutes, paying 45 cents a minute when I went over. Now, that will never happen again! YAY!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Through The Eyes Of John Hughes" on Facebook

Wednesday, I created a Facebook page dedicated to writer / director John Hughes and the 80's teen films he created. Since his passing I thought about putting a website together through Blogger, but never quite had the time to put any serious creativity into.

Still wanting to connect with like-minded fans to share thoughts on Hughes work, I decided this would be a great place to casually become involved as opposed to an all inclusive website. That site might still be in my future, but for now I'm enjoying the random thoughts, observations, interaction, and acknowledgment of the stuff I love about Hughes' movies.

If you're signed up for Facebook, you can find the page here. If not, you'll need to do that first. I'll also be creating a permanent link on the left sidebar shortly.

Second week at Playground Media Group

Almost finished with my second week of work, flip-flopping back and forth between doing changes on the trailer for "The Bounty Hunter" and familiarizing myself more with "Cougar Town".

"The Bounty Hunter" took up the majority of the day today. The studio wasn't exactly clear as to what they wanted this piece to look or sound like. Early on we were only getting scant notes, but not the specifics we really needed to produce exactly what they were looking for. Finally, only within the last day, did we get a clearer perspective. But only after using up precious time trying to figure out the direction they were looking for.

Finished watching my fifth episode of "Cougar Town" and did find myself laughing a few times. Not quite my kind of show, but I did appreciate Courtney Cox being right out there about being in her 40s and not trying to come across as perfect. I am beginning to put the bite selects together for what will become a seven to nine minute piece.

Once again, not only do I thank God for this work, but also for the length of time I foresee myself at Playground. Definitely could be a somewhat long stay.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The 2010 Academy Awards Nominations

Overall, I was pretty happy with everything. The ten Best Picture field certainly allowed several movies to rise to the top that might have been relegated to performance awards only.

The films that surely would have made the top five:
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Up in the Air"

Those that would not have and now have a shot:
"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"A Serious Man"

I'm especially happy about the four nominations for "District 9", particularly Best Picture! SO well deserved! Plus, "Up" with five nods including Best Picture in two catagories. Amazing! That will absolutely take the animated BP.

Definitely want to see "The Hurt Locker", and yes, even "Precious" is a movie I'm more than curious about now.

The buzz was out there for Sandra Bullock getting her first nomination, but who saw "The Blind Side" for Best Picture?!

George Clooney's Best Actor would have to be the one I'm rooting for the most, although Jeff Bridges has a lot of momentum right now. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick round out all three main players in "Up in the Air", plus Director Jason Reitman and the movie itself being nominated. All well deserved, and hopefully making it so this great film will take home a few statues.

"Inglourious Basterds" is still not on my list of 'must-sees'. Yes, it's getting all these kudos, awards, and nominations. I don't know....maybe at some point.

I think we all know that "Avatar" will clean up in the end, and I'm great with that! Being that James Cameron is one of my favorite directors, it'll be pretty amazing for a man who cleaned up twelve years ago at the Oscars to practically be non-existent for that same amount of time, then come back with something incredible.

Wished "Sherlock Holmes" had been recognized a bit more.

"The Princess and the Frog"....BLAH! Not a fan!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oscar Nominations

Tomorrow morning, 5:30am, the Oscar nominations will be announced....and I'll be up and in front of the computer or TV to catch them as they're revealed.

This year there's going to be ten noms in the Best Picture category. It's gonna be pretty interesting to see what might have originally fallen off the list that will now be included. Here's hoping for some nice surprises!

Apple's iPad: Shut up, it rules!!

Will all those pretentious bloggers, critics, and general consumers shut the fuck up about all the things the new iPad CAN'T do! Did they miss the fact that it's suppose to be the 'in-between' device?!

There's the iPhone that performs a unique, innovative series of tasks and still stands as an incredible, cultural changing does the iPod for that matter. Then there's the Mac computer and laptop. Again, innovative and ground breaking. Steve Jobs pointed out in his keynote address introducing the iPad that it clearly was a device that was indeed different from the others. Yet still embracing a number of applications and software indigenous to other Apple devices.

I'm tired of these people decrying 'oh, it doesn't have a camera...oh, it doesn't have a phone...oh, it doesn't have HDMI...oh, it sounds like a tampon...oh, how can people with Boston accents ask for one in the store without it sounding like they're looking to buy an iPod? (yes, this was an actual complaint!). BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! Some critics are actually asking for a name change! Yeah, good luck with that.

You know what?! This gadget has a very strong future ahead of it! And one video blogger said that applications for the iPad's use would probably go beyond what it was originally intended for. Uses that were perhaps not even thought of right off the drawing board, and that's just fine. The iPad was never intended to be an all-in-one device, and ultimately, never was the iPhone. I do, in fact, plan on buying an iPhone sometime this year. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

So everybody out there...CHILL! The iPad is here and it's pretty damned cool! And yes, I have a biased opinion because I am a Mac whore....but hey, ya know?!