I wanted to write a few personal notes on shooting this weekend at 32ten studios for the new term just announced. The shoot is 2/3th over as I write this in my hotel room at 5 am unable to sleep on the morning of the new term – and the shoot so far has been a huge success.
We will be publishing an fxguidetv and an Oweek video this week that will show much more, but I hoped to note a few personal observations, about shoots in general and this one in particular.
Firstly, once again I am reminded how lucky I am to work with such an amazingly talented group of people, and to have such a blessed life that I get to do this for a living. I guess I should state this more often, but having such brilliant business partners who I would trust with my life, – is not to be taken lightly and often times it is sadly just not true for many people – but it is true for me. Pick your business partners well would be my advice. Make sure they are brighter than you and then trust them.
It sounds simple but fxguide has been a team since 1999, fxphd for about half that time and everything we do is only possible as we seem to spend very little time arguing, fighting or playing politics – in fact, there is none of that. I can say this publicly as all the attendees at the workshop this week have seen our team under stress and I don’t think a single one of them would be able to point to even one second where the founders of the company were even close to being in conflict. That sets the tone I think for shoots. If on a normal shoot the director and producers are in harmony, then everyone one picks up on that vibe.
Secondly, hire insanely competent staff who you can rely on and who only ever need to be told anything twice. We have a such a team member this week, – Jim Shen – a quite spoken guy who is competent, trusted and who just quietly moves mountains. Jim is joined by a great team in our other offices – each one exceptional – but Jim was our first employee and remains my right hand – without whom I just could not function.
A shoot is like recording a car crash – it is spectacular and you need to brace yourself or get hurt. You need to prepare yourself, but mainly there is a sense of it just happening around you and you get no “do overs” . If you did not get what you needed – tough – we have moved on and we wont have time to come back. Knowing things are just being looked after by your team so you can look forward and not back – makes the car crash more like a wild 4 wheel drift on a test track and less like a head on collision – with you as the test dummy.
Next I can not say enough about how impressive the team at 32ten and Scott Squires are – wow. Of course Scott is ex-ILM and 32ten team comes from the ILM Model shop – so while Scott has not shot with the 32ten guys in a while – I have heard more than one crew member remark to Scott – “great to see you- we need you to mov back up here Scott so we can work together again more!” You would be a fool to not think any shoot with this ex ILM crew would not be awesome, but on set – with all the complexity of filming for fxphd, with some 20 attendees – and the complexity of providing teaching and educational focus to them, this crew has just blown through shots.
I know it really comes down to just one key thing: experience. You get what you pay for in this life and I tend to think experience is just so under rated. We have moved with lighting speed from explosions to guns, from guns to green screen, to zero G to then miniatures and more. The experience of the 32ten crew means that the first time we look at an entirely new setup it is either 90% correct or 99% correct – on the first take. I have spent half a day trying to nut out a problem with a less experienced crew, and sometimes we have just not gotten anything like what we wanted.
Here at 32ten, we discussed in pre-production matching a guy on fire and bang first time we move to that set up – a rig appears – it is innovative – it has a few options and we have a great looking element that immediately our on set guys can start test comping into a shot. It is so good – if it was not for the surprised grin on my face – you’d think for many of these complex setups we had done it before and this was one of those “cooking show” style demos where we tested it – worked it all out the week before – and on the day made it look too easy. The reality is we did pre-production properly and these brilliant guys with decades of experience just nailed it the first time we saw it.
There are many ways to save money on a shoot – but the best way to insure a shoot avoids overages and problems is to work with really experienced crew. It is pure joy to be on set and see a well oiled team just move from lighting the floor on fire, to pump action shotguns blowing a wall out to the next problem – one after another – at least 8 completely different setups a day – handling dangerous and explosive materials – and it all just works.
We are only able to do this due to friends helping. fxphd could not mount this scale of production without friends helping. So many people have just offered to help, to work and contribute, – and it is those members of the team that have made the rest of us look good. We owe these guys such a serious debt. Never once have I heard any of these guys complain, some are working on the weekend – on their birthdays – and they are just doing it all with a smile and professionalism second to none.
Finally the attendees here at the workshop are brilliant. They are mainly fxphd or fxguide insider members, but having flown in from Italy, France, Mexico and across the USA. They are such great guys and really keen to learn, contribute and participate. The calibre of attendee has meant that we have been able to move at a cracking pace and I have learnt a lot from them. What a great bunch of people and it is a privilege to stand in front of them – given how knowledgable they already are, but they have just been awesome.
I hope all this effort comes over if you are with us this term at fxphd. The course sold out in about 48 hours give or take and we had about 20 people on the waiting list. fxphd isnt changing its course, we remain committed to our online members, so we will not being doing these regularly or immediately again, but I hope the next time we do mount such a huge shoot over days and days with over 50 + people and crew on set it is an enjoyable experience as this one.
Now I have to get ready to drop a car 25 feet and film it at 1500 frames per second – excuse me guys