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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Seckendorf’

I am honored to be the featured filmmaker and to present my short film TRAVELIN TRAINS, this Friday, 8pm, June 4, 2010 as part of the RAW: Natural Born Artists event at the great Hollywood screening venue, CINESPACE.  RAW Artists is a multi-faceted arts organization showcasing handpicked artistic talents in the avenues of film, fashion, music, art, DJs, models, photography and performing arts. Each month there is a party event promoting the artists and their work.  It’s an invite only, cocktail affair.  If you want, you can order your tickets by following this link HERE.

They posted an interview with me on their site, but I wanted to take this opportunity to expand on some of those comments and offer direct links below.

Q- Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Filmmaker that’s been based in Los Angeles since 1994. Before that I lived and worked in Atlanta for 10 years. I was born in New England. I went to Emerson College.

Q- How did you first get started in film?
I started making Super 8 films when I was 10 years old. Lots of three minute in camera editing. I loved going to movies and would emulate the stories with my friends that we saw at the theater. Recently, I’ve reconnected with some of them on Facebook and it’s been fun to share these films from our youth. When I was in college I started shooting in 16mm and video. Haven’t stopped since.

Q- Tell us about TRAVELIN’ TRAINS

TRAVELIN’ TRAINS is a short 16mm black and white film I made a few years back (well, actually more then a few) about a young man in search of his father in depression-era Georgia and the blues music that both joins and separates them.  We shot it in Atlanta, grant supported. Most of the script was written in a local Atlanta blues club, “Blind Willies.”  I’m excited that people are going to get to see the film on a bigger screen, because these days it is mostly watched on DVD. I think it is the best example of my work as a filmmaker because unlike other projects I’ve done that have producers, actors, clients involved, all the decisions, both good and bad, were my own. I take full responsibility.

Here’s a youtube link to the Trailer for TRAVELIN’ TRAINS

And here’s a link to “Freight Train Blues” scene from the film.

Q- Any other films you’ve produced?
I now work professionally as a producer and director after more than twenty years as an Assistant Director for film and television. Not to say I wouldn’t AD again, if the right project financially came along. I still love to AD commercials, but you do a couple of long term projects and you fall out of the loop quickly.

I recently directed a five-camera DVD live concert of David Arkenstone and his new band, Mandala. A couple of years ago, I produced the live action segments to the EA video game, “Need for Speed: Undercover.”  Directed by Joseph Hodges and photographed by DP Jeff Seckendorf, you can see some clips on my company website, Unconventional Media.

TALES FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF ELVIS continues its award winning film festival run recently winning Best Microbudget Feature Film at The Cannes Independent Film Festival in May. I produced this “shocking” true tale of a Catholic school girl in Las Vegas! Part “Canterbury Tales” meets “PeeWee’s Playhouse,” writer, co-director and lead actress Mercy Malick narrates, as a communal theater experience leeps off the stage and onto the streets of the City of Sin.

The acclaimed documentary on the USA domestic energy crisis that I produced with director Nicole Torre, HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM has also been playing the film festivals, including this week at The Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival and opening at the Downtown Independent in July. I also just returned from a great trip to Western Ireland after producing for writer/producer Diane Namm, a documentary-comedy hybrid,  WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE DINGLE.

Q- From where do you draw inspiration for your work?

I’m drawn to music projects. Music is a huge inspiration. I can’t play so maybe that’s why I love music so much, some of my best ideas happen when I’m at concerts. I also like travel, history and true stories. For some reason, I have never been interested in love stories.

Q- From start to finish, explain your process; what does a typical film-making day look like for you?
If I’m not working for someone else or shooting a project, then the ideal day starts with emails and reading web updates on Twitter. Lots of good leads and information so I have to watch out that I don’t get sucked in and spoil the whole day riding the internet highway. So, next thing I do is take a walk for an hour, listen to music, to clear my head for some writing. It can be writing a screenplay or writing a one-sheet pitch. Sometimes instead of writing, I’m editing a project. Sometimes I’m editing stuff I shot years ago. I’m convinced that something that you put aside at one point is the focus of your interest another time. Your old films are your assets. I’ve got lots of plans for my old footage.

In the evening, I like to have a glass of wine and read the newspaper. If the news doesn’t get me too angry, I check emails again, but sometimes I get lost on the internet trying to get more information. I don’t trust just one news source anymore. I’ve got to know the WHOLE story. At night, I either catch some live music or watch a movie or show on television. I’ve got a big pile of books that I want to read by my bed, but rarely get there early enough to get in some good quality reading. If I do, then I consider that to be an exceptional day.

Q- All time favorite film?
MODERN TIMES – Charlie Chaplin

Q- Are there any filmmakers–past or present–who strongly inform and influence your work?
There are many filmmakers that have influenced my work, but I’m most attracted to the filmmakers that try different styles, take some risks with different genres, sometimes successfully, other times not as much. I think a filmmaker is limiting themselves as an artist if they keep doing the same style over and over again. Stanley Kubrick, John Huston are good examples of directors that did different kinds of films. I think Clint Eastwood is proving to be a pretty diverse filmmaker.

Q- Are there any specific reoccurring themes or subjects that you explore and deal with most in your work?
Not really. As stated above I like diversity.

Q- Any previous films/collaborations that you are most proud of?
In 1999/2000, I co-produced with director/producer David Zeiger, the 13 part documentary series for PBS,SENIOR YEAR. We are about to release it on DVD and it’s amazing how after 10 years so many of these issues are still the issues of High School kids. It feels very contemporary. I wish more people had seen it and I hope with the DVD release they will. It was a pretty amazing series. We introduced a lot of cinema verite techniques, like diary cams, time lapse, that you see on most reality series now.

David is also talking about releasing on DVD the documentary we both produced and directed in 1995, DISPLACED IN THE NEW SOUTH.  The film explores the cultural collision between Asian and Hispanic immigrants and the suburban communities near Atlanta where they settled. It was the inspiration for the Indigo Girls song, “Shame on You.” You can see clips from our film in the music video. The interesting thing is the documentary covered issues still being debated in Arizona and the rest of the country.

That’s what I mean when I talk about filmmakers keeping their assets, their films. You never know when an interest will come again, look at TRAVELIN’ TRAINS.

Q- Why showcase with RAW?
Any opportunity to show some of your work on a big screen to a new audience is exciting. I’m honored to be a part of a show at a great venue with a group of artists I didn’t know before.

Q- Any current rising stars within the genre that you would recommend we look out for?
So many of the projects I’ve been involved with as a Producer lately have had limited funds. I wouldn’t make the commitment to help the Directors if I didn’t believe they were rising stars. I’m honored to have been able to help facilitate the directing visions of Mercy Malick, Diane Namm, David Zeiger, Nicole Torre, Stefan Rhys, Joseph Hodges, BrandU

But I should add, I still consider myself a rising star. I’d still like to direct a feature film. I’ve been trying to find financing for my narrative film, PRESS>PLAY and a couple of times we’ve almost had the money in place. In 2006, I was supposed to direct another feature. We had a cast and location and everything, but at the last minute, the money went dry. I’ve been developing a documentary film on Arborglyphs since 1992 with visual artist/musician Sandy Corley, entitled WITNESS TREES. Now that 3D programming for television is becoming a reality, there is renewed interest. So you never know where it’s going to come from. Just keep working on the projects that inspire you. I guess that’s the “artist” part of me. Thanks for having me.

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sowingcirclegroupsmallA few weeks ago Jeff Seckendorf and I were interviewed at the Cinema Innovators Event by the PixelHead Network.  We talked about Unconventional Media and our commitment to New Media.  I also discussed the video streaming we’ve been doing at Unconventional South.  I can’t tell you how excited I am by our upcoming event  on Saturday February 28th at 8:30 PM,(Central Standard Time), 6:30 PM (PCT) presenting Billy Falcon and The Sowing Circle live on a national video stream.

There has been some great recent posting including Mashable.com and Dorkmuffin on the best outlets on the internet for new musical artists, definitely worth checking out.  However, neither mention live internet streaming, which gives the opportunity for anyone in the country, and sometimes the world, to be part of an audience seeing and hearing a performer live.  I enjoyed the last stream Unconventional South uploaded of Billy and the Sowing Circle so much, I was hung over the next morning.  That’s how real it felt, just like I was sitting at the Blue Bar in Nashville from my living room in LA.

This time things will be a little different, it’s an informal house party.  Since we are still experimenting, Michael Catalano of Unconventional South, will be flying solo with camera and sound.  It will be an intimate, uncut live performance.  If you read my post on “Stone Cold Sober in Music City” you know one of the things I love in James Szalapski’s film, “Heartworn Highways,” are the scenes of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle and others sitting around the living room, playing music, drinking, smoking and espousing the importance of back-to-basics country.  I hope this video stream Saturday night will evoke that same feeling.

The “Sowing Circle” is a conceptual night of music Billy Falcon started two years ago.  Billy is a well established musician and songwriter, mostly known for writing over 12 songs for Bon Jovi, including most of the hits.  To Billy, the Sowing Circle is “at its worst a lot of fun, and at its best, it’s something tribal.  Unplanned and unrehearsed; it’s gifted singers, songwriters, violinists, guitar players, sax players, trumpet players, percussionists… coming together for the love of the music and nothing more.  Audiences are not merely spectators, they become part of the experience, with musicians sitting next to them and microphones set up for them to join in at will.”

Mix in some Dead, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Hank Williams and Phish and you only begin to understand the Sowing Circle.  Tune in for this is a rare opportunity to not only hear, but see some of today’s most prolific and talented songwriters and performers including Billy’s wonderfully talented and beautiful daughter, Rose Falcon, present their music in the most honest and direct way possible.  Join Billy, Rose and all their visiting guests this Saturday, February 28th, 9:30pm EST, 8:30pm CST, 6:30pm PCT by following this UStream link.

This weekend, on the West Coast, the fun doesn’t stop there.  On Sunday, March 1st at 2:30pm, the short film I produced “The Sacrifice” is playing at the Beverly Hills Shorts Film Festival.  Written and directed by Diane Namm, “The Sacrifice” recounts the gripping tale of 13-year-old Esmee Johnson on the day in which cult leader Rev. Dobbins comes to take her as his wife.

The Sacrifice” was shot on Super 16 film, the multi-talented cast includes: Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield, Friday Night Lights, X Files); Darby Stanchfield (Mad Men, Jericho); Jon Lindstrom (Must Love Dogs, Right on Track, and General Hospital); Richard Riehle (Office Space, Grounded for Life) and Molly Quinn (Castle, A Christmas Carol, directed by Robert Zemeckis) ).  Ivy Isenberg was the Casting Director.  I’m so glad to see the film continue to get festival play.  A great weekend ahead, indeed.

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7thannualvesawards
Yesterday, the Visual Effects Society (VES) announced the nominees for the VES Awards and “Need for Speed:Undercover” was nominated in two categories, Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game and the one that truly reflects Unconventional Media’s work, Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game.  Directed by Joseph Hodges with cinematography by Jeff Seckendorf, Unconventional Media produced all the live action portions to the Electronic Arts release.

Much has been written about the blending of the live action and game animation (and the use of the RED camera) including Moviemaker Magazine, Moving Picture Magazine, LA Splash and American Cinematographer.

This is the 7th annual VES award ceremony recognizing outstanding visual effects in over a dozen categories of film, animation, television, commercials and video games. Comprised of more than 1,600 members in 17 countries, the Visual Effects Society is the entertainment industry’s only official trade organization representing the full breadth of visual effects practitioners including artists, technologists, model makers, educators, studio leaders, supervisors, PR/marketing specialists and producers in all areas of entertainment.

The award ceremony will take place on February 21, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

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The amazing musical artist, once again known as, Prince has recently been quoted as saying, “the Gatekeepers must change.”  This was in reference to his frustration with the major labels and the creation of his own record label and his three upcoming, yes three, releases.  The man is prolific.  He’s got a new interactive website, www.lotusflow3r.com, that has some of his new music and soon will carry videos and idea blogs.  It really isn’t that different then what any musician can create on a MySpace site.  He and many musicians have found the Internet to be the best home for their personal creative visions.

There was an article a few days ago in the LA Times by Randy Lewis about music Industry A&R guys.  Don Gierson, a music label veteran that teaches A&R classes at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, believes that it is critical now to understand and learn how to anticipate trends and harness new technologies to better serve the artists.  Jeff Blue, another seasoned pro and teacher there is quoted as saying the music industry is “evolving – and devolving-and more and more artists have to be their own record label.”  The article goes on to state that the harsh reality today is that few record companies have the time, money or interest to nurture acts anymore.  As I posted in a recent blog, we all have to be our own distributors.

We’re hearing the same thing in the film and television industry.  A new webisode series, FilmFellas, showcases influential and emerging new filmmakers discussing the challenges of the new independent film scene.  The full screen HD tells the story, it looks fantastic (I’m guessing the RED), a viewing pleasure.  We’re not going to be looking at compressed video much longer on YouTube.

The FilmFella guys and the A&R guys at the Musicians Institute are mentoring us all in how the Internet is changing entertainment.  I try to do this with this blog and the courses I teach at the Maine Media Workshops and with Jeff Seckendorf at One on One Film Training.  As the studios and record labels get bought up by congloms like Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom and Sony, we’re all discovering that we don’t need them anymore.

Well, okay we still need them financially, but hopefully not for long.  It still seems like the only way to make any money for your Internet projects is through sponsorships and advertising banners.  In these economic times, that money is not readily available.  Look at www.Hulu.com.  It’s television on the Web, with advertising.  It’s a great source for finding a television show or episode we may have missed, but at this point, no one is making any money from the convenience.  Which brings me to the potential SAG strike.  Because of all my actor friends, I promised myself I would stay out of that mess, but as I see traditional production slow down with the talk of another strike, I feel I must speak out.

I’m pro-union, a proud DGA member and certainly believe there are issues that need better resolution in the current contracts.  One of the biggest is how money is to be disseminated to the creative parties when projects are produced for the Internet.  The problem is, at this point in time, the Internet is a creative playground, but few are making any money including the big studios.  I think the WGA and DGA and even AFTRA were wise to table Internet discussions until the next contract meetings.  SAG should do the same.

Now is not the time to strike.  Too many other non-actors in this business will be affected, including Unconventional Media.  Few have recovered economically from the Writer’s strike.  SAG needs to work out their divisions within their own union first.  It’s getting ugly, according to the January 12th, Hollywood Reporter, SAG board member Frances Fisher (Mother in “Titanic“) distributed an email suggesting that SAG members use their upcoming SAG Award ballots to punish nominated actors — including Alec Baldwin, Steve Carell and Sally Field — who have advocated abandoning the strike-authorization vote.  Making it political, not about acting performance – for the SAG Awards.  Come on!  That’s just one example, it’s really become civil war.  Unify first please, before you put everyone out of work.

SAG needs to work with all of the other union members to get through these tough economic times instead of making them tougher.  Don’t sink the ship, Mama!  Go to www.nosagstrike.com for more information or go to the SAG website for SAG’s MembershipFirst side on authorizing the strike.

I agree that the Gatekeepers must change, let’s just be responsible and know what those changes really are going to be first.  As Tina Fey warned on The Golden Globe Awards last night, “there’s this thing called the Internet…”  It’s still in development.  I don’t believe you should set the rules before you know if the actual experiment worked.

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I first met Jeff Seckendorf on the feature film, “Finding Home” starring Genevieve Bujold, Louise Fletcher and Lisa Brenner.  I was impressed.  I found his cinematography and his visual understanding of how to tell a story the most impressive thing about the feature film.  We’ve remained friends ever since.  A few years later I had the opportunity to produce a short film that Jeff directed entitled “The Crux,” starring Misha Collins and Wilie Garson (Sex and the City).  Still liked his understanding of film and how to tell the story visually.

Jeff Seckendorf has taught the “Art of Cinematography” for years at the International Film and Television Workshops (now the Maine Media Workshops).  It was because of Jeff’s introduction that I began to teach a course on producing at the Workshops.  One of my favorite highlights each year.  More info at my website at www.EricMofford.com.

A few months ago I completed production through my production company Unconventional Media on the live action elements of the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need For Speed:Undercover.”  We shot a 25-minute narrative film that is interlaced into the game.  Jeff was the Director of Photography and he did an amazing job.  We chose the RED camera for a variety of reasons: the large chip allows full control of depth of field, and the camera records in a ‘raw’ mode which allowed us to deliver a 4k intermediate.  Check out my RED Camera blog for more info.

So the long story short, Jeff has a wonderful training course for directors, cinematographers, editors, production designers called One On One Film Training.  This is not a film school, but a confidential consulting and mentoring program that teaches visual storytelling.  It doesn’t matter if you have a feature film or a video short, a TV commercial or music video, the process is the same.  How to tell the story!

I saw the success of this program when I produced Diane Namm‘s short film “The Sacrifice” starring Chris Mulkey, Jon Lindstrom and Darby Stanchfield (Mad Men).  Diane is a terrific writer and theater director but it was with Jeff’s One on One Training that she had a much better understanding of the filmmaking process.  I’ve worked with many first time directors, on bigger budget shows, that didn’t know what to do.  That wasn’t true with Diane Namm.  She was a professional throughout production.  I credit Jeff and his course (and I believe Diane would to) for this knowledge.

If you are not in Los Angeles, I know that One on One is available via ichat and podcasting.  In fact, I join Jeff on the audio recording “Making a Short Film.”  Check it out.  Check out the program.

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There have been some requests for more details about the live action shoot on the upcoming EA video game “Need For Speed:Undercover” that I produced.  Especially about why we chose the RED cameras.

When the director, Joseph Hodges and I met with EA to discuss the Live Action elements in the game and how to match them to the game play, they provided extensive reference footage for the visuals.  Their idea was for us to shoot it flat to be processed to match the game later in post.  Joseph comes from a strong Production Design background and he felt strongly that we could create the look with the right sets and lighting.  I introduced Joseph to my old friend and talented Director of Photography, Jeff Seckendorf.

We viewed the project like a 25 minute short film – narrative segments that intercut with the game.  We wanted to give the project the feel of a feature film, not only with the acting, but with the lighting, camera movements and lens choices.  If you visited the set and saw the size of the crew (check IMDB) and lighting package, it looked like a regular feature film production.  However, because of some of the requirements for post production, including shooting at 29.97, we didn’t have film cameras, we had the RED.

I knew very little about the RED before this shoot except that we could use all the Arri acessories and film lenses which would allow us to play with the depth of field a lot more then most HD cameras.  This was very important to Joseph and to all of us.  The other important thing to Jeff was that it shoots RAW, which is like shooting negative film – the camera only records one color setting, one gamma setting, one contrast setting.  The Red shoots an image that must be color corrected in post, exactly like negative film.

One thing I did discover in Post and it should be noted (for the sanity of your editor) is that each time you turn the camera on and off, it creates another storage file.  “Bumping” the slate before or after a take doesn’t work because there is no direct data reference so the slate marking the scene is not directly before or after a scene.  That is just one more reason I can’t recommend enough having an imaging technician on set to do data management and monitor output when using the RED cameras.

At the project’s conclusion, Unconventional Media’s creative partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) has led to a number of firsts.  Need for Speed:Undercover will incorporate visual, structural and narrative elements making it the first fully filmic video game.  It’s also the first outing for the RED One on a video game. Post-Production facility Plaster City in Los Angeles has completed over 70 RED projects, but this was the first to shoot 29.97 with multiple cameras (two were used at all times, a back up third occasionally).  “It put this project in an elite class of RED projects,” Michael Cioni, Chief Officer of Plaster City, told me.

I’m excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and feature film. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go but I think the RED camera will help lead the way.

Our D.P. Jeff Seckendorf goes into more detail about his experiences with the RED camera on the project at the forum for the Red User Group, plus an article on the shoot will appear in the October issue of American Cinematographer.  The video game will be released on all platforms,  November 18.

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Can computer animation really compete with the big screen? Yes. Gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA) and Unconventional Media have combined to pull cinema into the gaming fast lane via EA’s successful street-racing franchise, Need for Speed.

“I believe it’s the next level in game play,” states Eric Mofford, producer and founder of Unconventional Media, a Southern California cross-over film and new media company. “Gamers will have a real cinema-like experience with the upcoming release of EA’s Need for Speed: Undercover.”

Mofford, a film and TV professional, was initially approached by “24” colleague, director and production designer Joseph Hodges, to produce the cinematic portions for the game. “I was quite pleased to get the call. EA was looking for that same sort of visual style and immersive narrative that we bring to “24,” but the bigger creative challenge for us would be to develop something that was seamless with the game’s look, and keep it fresh,” explains Hodges. Mofford adds, “We focused on getting the most filmic look we could from digital cinema. What we ended up with were real sets, a huge lighting package, and the RED ONE.”

“I think the most important job for a Producer is to assemble the best team possible for the production,” says Mofford “especially with a first time cross-media endeavor.” Mofford brought on board long-time colleague, Director of Photography Jeffrey Seckendorf, who was enthusiastic about the prospects of shooting with the RED.  “We knew EA needed a digital delivery and they wanted high definition. And shooting raw with the RED ONE, we were able to deliver 4k dpx files along with color corrected masters, allowing EA to work at a much higher resolution level than in its previous games,” explains Seckendorf.  The result is a hot look for Need for Speed: Undercover that is virtually indistinguishable from a large-budget feature film.

“We’re excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and the Hollywood experience. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go!” Mofford concludes. Wherever that road takes Unconventional Media, you can bet the end-product will be anything but conventional.

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