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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Hodges’

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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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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Need for Speed:Undercover from Electronic Arts (EA) is finally available at retail stores in North America and on November 21 in Europe.  The live action in-game movies were produced by Eric Mofford and directed by Joseph Hodges for Unconventional Media.  In the game, the player is recruited by Federal Agent Chase Linh, played by Maggie Q (Mission Impossible III and Live Free or Die Hard), to go undercover and infiltrate and takedown a ruthless international crime syndicate. Posing as a wheelman, the player will be required to prove themselves by completing jobs, racing through speedways, dodging cops and chasing rivals.

The production (especially the use of the RED camera) has been covered in such magazines as American Cinematographer, MovieMaker and Moving Pictures.  Filmed at the end of May and early June, the buzz and anticipation of the game first started in August with the Teaser and the “Which Road To Take” website.  Discussions. forums and updates at such sites as NFSunlimited.net have only helped fuel the excitement.

Need for Speed Undercover has been getting strong reviews, including IGN magazine, as an action-packed story of pursuit and betrayal that takes players back to the “Need for Speed” roots with break-neck cop chases, spectacular highway battles and an expansive open-world.  The game also features its signature real-world damage and car customization for over 55 of the hottest licensed vehicles including the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, Audi R8, Porsche 911 GT2 and the all-new unreleased 2009 Nissan 370Z.

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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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Earlier this year I started my own production company Unconventional Media, LLC.  I was very lucky that Director/Production Designer Joseph Hodges from “24” ask me to produce the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need for Speed:Undercover“.  I produced all the Live Action segments, the car racing stuff is all animation.  The first trailers for “Need for Speed:Undercover” are out.  Be forewarned you’ll need the most recent version of Flash.

Anyway, I’m discovering this to be a rapidly growing business. I’m excited to take all my years of filmmaking and production and use it for this new media.  Returned from the Virtual World Expo last week with even more information about the future of media.  So I thought I’d start this blog to pass along the things I’ve discovered and the they relate to the skills and production things I already know.  Hey, it may even prove to be helpful to someone.  Who knows?

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