Tips, Tricks and Above All Comedy
I have been to Hearst Castle five times and each time I have looked for the famous William Randolph Hearst zebras, my eyes were always out for one or two white and black striped ancestors of the original zebras. On this special trip riding along Highway 1 I saw absolutely nothing but Autumn yelled, “Did we leave the stove on?” No, she actually said, “Is that a… No, can’t be… Is that a zebra?” YES-it was! For the first time in my life I saw a zebra in it’s natural habitat, San Simeon, CA.
Mr. Hearst built his home and castle on the land he camped at as a child and near that castle he built a zoo called Animal Hill. Starting in 1937 when Mr. Hearst had financial problems he donated most of these animals like the bears, cougars, chimpanzees and an elephant to zoos (over the span of 15 years) but some animals like llamas, Rocky Mountain elk, Barbary sheep and of course the zebras were left to live on the hillside. Not all of these animals have survived so I always thought there were one or two zebras only but than our first day to the enchanted hill we saw an entire herd of zebras. Zebras on our first day into the castle and on our last day as we drove out, making bookends to our fantasy weekend.
I will be posting some pictures from our Hearst Castle trip soon but for now I will give you some photo tips on spotting these zebras, look along Highway 1 not along the bus ride up to Hearst Castle. There is no specific time they will be grazing but look between the small quant town of San Simeon and the entrance to Hearst Castle. I also suggest you get get out of your car when you spot them to photograph them. I saw many people following us after we spotted the zebras and they sat in their car taking photos. A dashboard and a zebra always makes for a nice picture. This drives me nuts, no pun intended, get out and try your best to show these graceful animals in their current, natural habitat.
I love the National Parks System even though I was a late bloomer to them, the first National Park I ever went to was when I was in college. I look back and wished I went to some of these parks when I was younger but traveling wasn’t something my family did. There was many trips they took me on but left me to find my way home. They moved a few times by the time I found my home too.
I am fortunate that I have embraced the National Parks since then and more strongly these last few years. I enjoy stamping my National Passports book and more importantly taking photos and videos of the parks. I was asked earlier this year to donate some of my photos as postcards to the gift shops of the parks that I have photographed these last few years. There is something about collection postcards when you go on trips that help you remember and share all the good times at your destination. I collect postcards at every park I go to and I hope you do the same.
All proceeds of these postcards go to the National Park where you purchase the postcard, each card comes with tips on the back telling you where and how I got the photograph. When you are at the parks look for the So Wrong But Funny logo on the back of the card and you will know it’s mine. Thank you for supporting our National Parks system.
Here are a few of the parks you will find the postcards at:
Yosemite National Park
Grand Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
And many more…
It is a collection of 24 postcards, only two of them have good photos on them, the rest are sub pair.
On June 30, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a legislation to preserve two parcels of land in Mariposa County, California named the Yosemite Grant. This grant paved the way to what is known as the National Park system today and the amazing part is he did this during Civil War. A President of the United States took time during a civil war to protect a precious piece of land so that one day our children can enjoy its beauty and luster.
Yosemite National Park is a special place for me. It helped opened my eyes to the beauty of nature, taught me to make decisions that are right for me and most importantly this last March I got to do one of my most important “moments” in my life there. Here are a few black and whites from my last visit in March, more photos to come soon. Remember to respect our parks so our children’s children can enjoy them too.
Here is to all the earthquakes that teach us something and wake us up.
After finishing the final cut of Chip & Bernie’s Zomance I sat back with my gal and watched my first feature film with her for the first time all the way though. During the entire filmmaking process I kept thinking, “If only I could have made this film five years ago, where would I be today?” Mind you, probably in the same place but with a receding hairline but I realized after watching this film I was lucky to not make this film five years ago, actually anything three years ago or more.
I would have ruined my film and not know why. Today I know why. I broke my rule as a filmmaker that I worked very hard to keep up to that point. This is probably the most helpful advice I can give you as young filmmakers. Work with the people you enjoy spending your time with. Face it, you aren’t going to always find the greatest actors out there, you cannot afford it but if you are genuinely enjoying yourself while making a movie it will show.
I worked on a web series for many years with a talented host but most of the time we were not enjoying ourselves. Sure we won a few film festival awards but when you watch the work you can see there was no enjoyment in the work. I wasn’t as eager to come up with amazing angles or spend extra hours to grab a better sunset nor was the host willing to entertain the audience at the level they were capable of. Most of the time they wouldn’t research the location, write the script or even have an outline to know what we needed to shoot. This bled into our work and was easily captured for our audiences.
If you look at the credits of Chip & Bernie’s Zomance you will see the same last names pop up over and over again, this is because I wrote roles to people I enjoy being around, family and friends. Now you might say but they people I enjoy being around are not actors. I had over ten actors in the film that have never acted before but you cannot tell because I catered roles to them and we genuinely enjoyed ourselves while making the movie. You are going to have to change your scripts for studios so get used to it and change what you need for your own films. Not once can I think of a time when we were not having fun on set. Even when we had squatters on our sets, cops harassing us, 3am shoots, we were all enjoying our time together because we genuinely enjoy each other.
Major motion pictures are ruined by bad chemistry on screen, “Did You Hear About The Morgans?,” “Fool’s Gold” or “The Tourist”. Even when films aren’t great, if the chemistry is there we still enjoy it: “Stir Crazy” or “Stepbrother”. I will never make the mistake I made before by working on projects I no longer enjoy or the people in them, your audience will see it in your work and shame on you for doing that.
The key is to work with those that you enjoy to work with and if you are lucky you get to work with those that you love and they love you back. That’s where I am and I am very lucky for it.
People use green screen effects too much, if you want to do a scene where you cut off an actor’s head I say do it. It’s only a little homicide, which one of us don’t need a 30 year vacation, all expenses paid by the government? If you feel you don’t need the vacation then you might be wondering what lights should I buy for my green screen set up. There are many questions:
Should I use hard light or soft lights?
Tungsten or fluorescent lights?
Where do I place the lights?
How many do I need?
Will you come to my house and put together my lights?
Last question first, I would never take away your chance to show off to your significant other how you get frustrated setting up lights.
Should I use hard light or soft lights?
Both but for two different reasons and uses. Your screen needs to be evenly lit, the more of your screen you have evenly lit when your actor is jumping around the better off your post production will be. Soft lights are the easiest lights to achieve this and I have tried both numerous times. Soft lights are the way to go to achieve the best lighting results on your screen.
Your hard lights have a very important use when doing green screen. You use these to backlight your subjects to give them a glow around their figure. When shooting green screen your subjects will blur into the background without the proper key light behind them.
Depending on your subject you have to decide how you light them and with what. Usually people want even lighting on their subjects so that would be a soft light.
Tungsten or fluorescent lights?
As independent filmmakers our budget is always a major concern, pay the rent or buy new equipment? Well, our significant others remind us to pay the rent first and we should thank them for that or we would be living in a box with amazing camera equipment. Let’s first look at what the two different lights do.
Fluorescent lights pull greens and intensifies their presence. This might sound good when you are working with a green screen but it isn’t. Think of your actor, if you bring out green hues in their clothes or skin then when you key out the green you will key more of them out. This is even worse for the key light on them, defeats the purpose of the key light.
Tungsten lights do not pull green or blue hues. They even use less bulbs so when your cat knocks over your light and breaks all your bulbs you don’t have to replace as many. You can also keep a few handy to not slow down your shoot if that happens since you don’t have to buy as much.
Only down point about tungsten lights is the light itself is more money, the y both work for green or blue screens but a tungsten will always give you better results when you light your screen properly.
Where do I place the lights?
I am going to give you an example of a 10′ tall and 12′ wide screen with one subject in the center.
You want a minimum of two, 1000 watt lights just for the green screen. One on each side of the screen, place the lights center for the screen to give you the best chance to evenly light your screen. Remember these are soft lights for the screen.
The next light you want is the key light, no soft box attached to give you a harder light and glow around the back of your subject. Ideally you want to place this light above the green screen and point it directly to the back of your subject. If need be you can place this light to either side of the green screen and achieve the same results.
If you have more soft lights use them, do two for the top half and two for the bottom half but remember to have enough lights to light your subject.
How many do I need?
This depends on your screen size and how much of your screen is going to be shown in the shot. I do not recommend less then three lights, one key light and two soft lights. In unfortunate circumstances I have used one soft light for the green screen but I can in closer for the shot.
There is no point shooting something you can’t use, so sometimes you have to change your desired shot and get what you can. Don’t shoot something you can’t use just because you wanted to shoot it that way. Shoot what your equipment lets you.
There is only one way to get good at shooting on a green screen, practice. Shoot on it as often as you can because it is something everyone uses, I have not shot a sketch, short or film in six years without at least one green screen shot.
Chip & Bernie’s Zomance is ready to take over the world of comedy zombie films and we highlight this with the launch of our website zomance.com. In today’s independent film market you must have a website to promote your film to film festivals and our newest feature film is ready.
Chip & Bernie’s Zomance is the story of two brother in laws Chip and Bernie who are world renown zombie killers and are loved for their off the wall zombie killings. When the world is taken over by the undead, we learned quickly that training survivors is key to the survival of mankind. A reality show contest is being aired on every station that is still available to survivors. Chip & Bernie compete against five other teams for the grand prize but along the way they realize that their background issues are straining their survival skills. We watch as Chip and Bernie struggle through their friendship and fighting off zombies in my first feature film, Chip & Bernie’s Zomance. Starring Pasquale Murena, Marc Robert and six-time Emmy winner, Tim Conway.
The website features behind the scenes photos of production and movie stills that you can only find here. Gives you the opportunity to decide which team you are more like by comparing their survival, training and fighting skills. It even features our film trailer and hilarious movie clips from the film. You can keep up with our film festival appearances and even contact us if you have any questions.
The website was designed and developed by the award winning and beautiful Autumn Schabert who adds her charm to our site. Share zomance.com with your friends and let them know how much fun Chip & Bernie’s Zomance is.