“Troll Bridge” Update

After much sleeping on everyone’s part, I got the final word from Daniel about the screening of “Troll Bridge” for Terry Pratchett, well, I should let Daniel say it in his own words:

Overall reaction from him?

I think he was pleasantly surprised. I did hear him chuckle a couple of
times – so that’s always a good sign. He had a few suggestions here and
there, and was certain to tell us about the stuff he did like. From Felix’s
illustrations, and the stand-in footage of the troll – he’s very keen to see
the completed Mica. He’ll also be scripting some very short dialogue for
the guards to be speaking around the lake. So I guess – all in all – it
was a success. Especially considering the screening of Troll Bridge we
showed him, had a lot of stuff only half done (or not even done at all).

So I think we’ve done good. I know I for one was a nervous wreck those last couple of days as Dana who shares a room with me at work can attest to. It was, at least in my mind, a big undertaking for me. I was providing all the sound for something that I really cared about.

I’ve been working in the sound industry for just shy of nine years. I know how to use the software, in fact I know it quite well. I know how to do a lot of the functional parts of editorial like converting picture to usable formats, sample rate converting sounds to get them in sync, and doing changes from change notes and worktracks. But for nine years I’ve been an assistant sound editor. I know that job really well. I haven’t done a lot of actual cutting—a lot of sound editing. I know what I like when I hear it. I can use the sound database better than most people but that process of cutting and positioning and combining and stretching and processing, I haven’t done a lot of it. So this is a big step for me.

I’m glad I’m taking it. I hope everyone is pleased with the end product.

Who’s That Tramping Over My Bridge?

Terry Pratchett is one of those truly gifted authors—someone who just “gets it”. With a few words he can make the most cutting and incisive comment on modern life. And all of his Discworld stories are set in a fantasy realm. I don’t think he’s as widely known in America as he is in England and Australia. The typical response I give to the inevitable query “Who’s that?” is that he Douglas Adams of fantasy novels.

Unfortunately even that leads to another question by the lesser informed of my countrymen. “Oh. Who’s Douglas Adams?”

“You know, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’?”

“Oh yeah! Never read it.”

“Well, it’s satire of modern life and pop culture told in science fiction novels. Douglas Adams, that is. Terry Pratchett does a similar thing with fantasy. Kind of a literary Monty Python.”

Thankfully most Americans are at least passingly familiar with Monty Python.

A little over a year ago, I was delighted to read about a intrepid group of Australians who decided to make a live-action version of one of Terry’s short stories, “Troll Bridge”. After a little investigation I found their website and starting reading about their undertaking.

As it turns out they got in touch with Terry and he agreed to allow them to make the movie. Terry’s stories have been turned into plays, mostly in England, and there are even two cartoons available on DVD and VHS of “Wyrd Sisters” and “Soul Music”. But there hasn’t been a live action version. Until now.

My immediate reaction was “Wow! Wouldn’t it be great to work on a Discworld film?!” So I sat down a wrote an email to Daniel Knight, the director, offering my services as a post-production sound guy. For some unknown reason, he was actually impressed with my resume and said “Sure.”

And for the better part of a year that’s been it. This is a mostly volunteer movie. People offering their services because they, like me, wanted to work on a Terry Pratchett movie. Or they just wanted to work on a movie period. But most of us have day jobs. The things that pay the bills. So it’s taken time.

About 2 weeks ago, I got an email from Daniel asking if I could help him out with some sound. Terry himself was going to be sitting down to watch some scenes and he wanted to make it as cool as possible. Of course I agreed and that’s what I’ve been working on in my spare time. This weekend has been the big editing session for me. They’re meeting with Terry Pratchett on Thursday. Work for me seems to have gotten extra busy recently. And Daniel is 19 hours ahead of me in Australia so this weekend is really my last chance to get the majority of the work done.

It’s been a lot of fun. I’m continually amazed at what I can accomplish on my laptop with an Mbox, Pro Tools LE, Soundminer and a good sound effects library. Of course this isn’t even really a temp dub. When it comes time to really do the sound, I’ll be working on my full-blown Pro Tools system because there will be a lot more sounds to carry and I’ll try to work out a deal with a local dub stage for mixing.

But with that little setup, a fast internet connection, some online storage space, email and instant messaging, we’ve been able to make this happen. It’s been an exciting time.

Damn, Dirty Astronauts

I came home tonight and took a look at my “Now Playing On Tivo” to see if there was anything I felt like watching. I discovered that my intrepid little box decided to record an episode of “Simon & Simon” for me. Remember that one? From about twenty years ago, two private investigator brothers trade barbs and solve crimes? I never really watched it as a kid. Shows like “The Greatest American Hero”, “CHiPs” and “The Dukes Of Hazzard” were much more my style.

Only in the 80’s would this seem like a good plot:

Simon & Simon

“The Wrong Stuff” (1984) Jameson Parker, Gerald McRaney, Tim Reid.
A teacher (Dianne Kay) asks the Simons to find the source of pornographic movies taken of her, a trail which leads to an ex-astronaut.

Of course I immediately thought of the “dirty astronauts” from various skits from the “Upright Citizens Brigade”. “We don’t need to moon-cheese baby!” And of course I did have to sit down and watch it. Unfortunately when the astronaut connection was finally revealed, it didn’t quite live up to kind of story I dreamt up in my mind after reading the synopsis. Though the “Vampire Cheerleaders” might make an interesting adult film.

Now the only question is why would Tivo suggest this to me?

Don’t Gimme No Back Talk, Sucka!

Yesterday we received news that yet another TV show is heading to the big screen. This time it’s Stephen J. Cannell’s 80’s action-comedy “The A-Team”. I pity the fool who didn’t watch this show. I was 9 years old when this was first on the air and it was one of my favorites. Even to this day the theme song is the ringtone on my cellphone, I have a Mr. T t-shirt that I often wear, and I even have this little keychain that when you press a button, it gives you choices bits of Mr. T dialog like “Quit yo’ jibba-jabba!”

Honestly I don’t know how I feel about them making this into a movie. I have many fond memories of the show from my childhood. I am also perfectly aware that it’s pretty ridiculous. Recently (within the last few years) I saw an episode where the Army finally discovered the A-Team’s secret hideout. Their big plan for capturing them was that they had to take out B.A. since he’s the really tough one. So they replaced the milkman who delivered B.A.’s milk every morning with one of their agents and put some drugs in his milk to knock him out. I’m dead serious. Actual storyline from the show.

Stephen is quoted as saying:

Not to denigrate the TV show, but nobody ever died. We drove cars off cliffs and people got out and walked away. We’re not going to do that (in the movie).

In this the tone is more dangerous … you can really die. It’s very tense and exciting.

How do you reconcile “dangerous” and “tense and exciting” with poisoned milk because the tough guy wants strong bones and teeth? The thing that made the show fun was that Mr. T was over-the-top. He was the strong one but he had all those gold chains and the mohawk. He could growl at someone and they’d run away afraid, but he drank his milk every day and was deathly afraid of flying.

Dwight Schultz before he was a neurotic engineer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was “the crazy one”, Murdock, on “The A-Team”. His character was the Scooby Doo of the group. He was always dressing up and pretending to be other people usually in an effort to fool the bad guys. In my mind, these kind of characters don’t lend themselves to “dangerous” movies.

I think that Stephen J. Cannell should take a long look at which TV-shows-turned-movies have been successful in the last few years. The ones that have their figurative tongue firmly planted in their figurative mouth, are much more successful than the ones that take themselves seriously. Movie versions of “Charlie’s Angels”, “Starsky & Hutch”, and “The Brady Bunch” and much more enjoyable and have much larger box offices than ones like “The Mod Squad” and “Lost In Space”.

Count Me Among The “Stoned Slackers”

From the AP newsire:

The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly kept referring to “The Daily Show” audience as “stoned slackers.”

So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

Viewers of Jon Stewart’s show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch “The O’Reilly Factor,” according to Nielsen Media Research.

I’m not quite sure why Comedy Central was so concerned about what Bill O’Reilly had to say about the audience of “The Daily Show” since he is such a paragon of truth and objectivity.

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite things about my new Tivo is that it allows me to watch TV shows when I have time, not necessarily when they are on. And thanks to Tivo I’ve gotten back into watching “The Daily Show”. Bill O’Reilly is actually going to be a guest on the show on October 7. That will certainly be an episode to catch.

If you have a Tivo and you’ve tried to record “The Daily Show” you have probably encountered the problem that you often get 4 recordings of the same show since they don’t provide individual episode information to the Tivo guide. Here are some great suggestions for dealing with the problem. I use number 2 myself and I find that it works very well.

That’s No Moon

Ok, probably everyone has already seen this but I finally caught all of the animated “Star Wars: Clone Wars” that the creator of “Samurai Jack” made in conjunction with LucasFilm. It’s a series of twenty 3 to 5 minute micro-episodes. The series recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Programming of One Hour or More. Cartoon Network showed them all last night.

“Outstanding” is certainly the word the describe them. The animation is vibrant. The stories are fun. The action is exciting and the sound effects are straight out of Ben Burtt’s library.

I can’t understand what the deal is. I recently re-watched all of the original movies. Between those, the “Clone Wars” series and the “Knights Of The Old Republic” videogame, there is a large of amount of exciting material and great stories. How come the these two newest movies suck? It’s not like their aren’t people who can tell awesome Star Wars universe stories. How can the “official” ones be so bad?

I watched the “Return Of Darth Vader” documentary on the fourth disc of the new Star Wars DVD boxed set. I found myself getting excited about “Star Wars” again. I thought back to that night that my parents took me to see “Star Wars” in the theater. (You won’t get me calling it “Episode IV” even if it was always in the yellow text crawl. And while we’re talking about name changes, it’s just “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”. Ok?) I was nearly 4 years old and I had to pee really bad, but I didn’t want to miss anything. Finally I couldn’t hold it anymore and I ran out of the theater to find the bathroom during the Mos Eisley Cantina. On my first viewing I missed the now controversial Han–Greedo scene. But I’ve seen the movie possibly 50 times since then, I can tell you without a doubt that Greedo shoots first.

I remembered the Sunday after church when my dad sat my brother and I down and started talking about how he was thinking it was interesting that the pastor was talking about the good angels and bad angels. And how the bad angels were cast out of heaven and the strongest among them became Satan. And wasn’t that like how Darth Vader who used to be a good Jedi, turned to the dark side? And hey, who’s up for going to see “Empire Strikes Back”?

I remembered sitting in my third grade class the day after the “Time” magazine exclusive on the new third movie in the series. Several of us brought copies in and the entire class was passing them around looking at the pictures of the big slug guy and all those other monsters—kind of like the Cantina but even cooler. And Han. What was going to happen to Han? Last time we saw him he was frozen in carbonite. How was he ever going to get out? My friends, Eric, Dan and I were determined to get our parents to let us skip a day of school and take us to the movies so that we could see “Return Of The Jedi” as soon as possible.

After watching Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen train for their epic battle and the prop department create the new Darth Vader helmet, I found that my heart was racing and I was breathing hard. This could be really cool, right? This is it. This is where Vader, the ultimate bad guy, is born. I really hope that “Revenge Of The Sith” will capture the adventure of the original movies—the adventure that “Clone Wars” and “KOTOR” tapped into. Unfortunately, in my heart of hearts I don’t think it will and that makes me sad.

Me Like Tivo

For the last two years I have been recording a few of my favorite TV shows on an old Macintosh with EyeTV. The cool thing about this is that I didn’t have to remember to switch videotapes. I could quickly copy the shows on to my laptop to watch anytime, anywhere. Plus I could burn it to a VCD for archiving, taking up much less space than a videotape.

During this time I’ve been very curious about Tivo but my computer-based system really did everything I needed it to do. In fact last year just before the new TV season, I almost bought a Tivo. But at the last minute I decided not to invest the money.

This year, I couldn’t help myself. I think it was the $100 rebate and fact that the Tivo plus DVD-R are finally at what I would consider to be a reasonable price. I can’t copy my shows to my laptop like I could before, but burning a DVD is quick and easy.

And the other benefits I get with Tivo are pretty damn amazing. Those of you who already have one already know this. I’m preaching to the choir. But those who haven’t tried it, you’re really missing out. My single favorite thing is that it makes TV fit my schedule instead of the other way around. It doesn’t matter what time I finally get home from work, I can sit down and watch my favorite shows. It can be tough for me to regularly watch shows that come on at 8pm—I’m often not home in time. And if I’m working long hours, late night shows like “The Daily Show” or Adult Swim are now at much more reasonable times.

Wishlists are awesome. I was able to tell my Tivo to record any movie that is directed by Alfred Hitchcock or Akira Kurosawa. It just finds them and records them. I don’t have to do any searching. Also, by spending a little time to rate shows with one or multiple thumbs up or down, I can teach it the kinds of shows and movies that I like. Then it suggests other things that I might like and records them for me. Very, very cool. And all I have to do is be willing to give up my right to TV viewing privacy. 😉

Heavy Metal Parking Lot

I forgot that I was planning on mentioning this over the weekend until I showed up at work again today…

On Friday with only an hour or so left in the day we were doing the lazy late-afternoon hangout thing—talking about music from our youth. With the addition of my large iTunes library it was very fun. “Oh! You mean this song?” Dana was mentioning that The Cars’ “Let’s Go” was her perfect driving song growing up. Of course she was an LA child so her experiences driving down Sunset Blvd. as a teenager were a bit different from me driving through the wooded lanes of small-town New England. For me “Cecilia Ann” by The Pixies holds that coveted spot of the perfect teenage driving song.

Talk eventually turned, for whatever reason, to karaoke and general amazement from people when I declared that “Ballroom Blitz” was my “signature” song. Of course I used to drink too. A lot. But that’s behind me now—though I haven’t yet had the courage to try karaoke sober. Anyway, I started pointing out other songs I liked to do in karaoke and we eventually got to Judas Priests’ “Living After Midnight”.

That led to talk about how silly so much of the metal scene in the 80’s. Of course at the time we thought it was dark and (at least on my part) a bit scary. It’s inevitable if you talk about silly heavy metal and Judas Priest that someone eventually brings up “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”. If you haven’t experienced it yet, I strongly suggest you click that link and relive the the glory of 1986.

Recovery Room

I slept away most of the morning trying to play catch-up after all those hours at work. Yesterday was another long one—9am to 1am. The good news is that as of about 12:30am this morning, I am going back to work next Monday on a little horror movie. In fact the words “if not sooner” were used, so I might not even have a full week off.

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on a horror film. Several years ago I worked on that supposed horror flick “Bless The Child”. What a piece of crap that was! I remember reading the script before I started on it saying to myself, “Dear lord! Who greenlit this shit!” That’s the funny thing about my job though. You need to work on those movies to pay the rent. Plus of course you can’t say anything about the movie while you’re working on it. And no matter how good the movie is, seeing it literally hundreds if not thousands of times during the process of cutting the sound will sour anyone on the most exquisite of cinema.

Several years before the midden-heap that was “Bless The Child”, I worked a little movie called “Nightwatch”. I don’t think hardly anyone saw it. It stars Ewan McGregor who was years away from wielding a lightsaber, that woman from “Gilmore Girls” before it was a spark of creativity in the writer’s mind, Josh Brolin before he started dating Diane Lane, and Patricia Arquette before… well just before. The director is Danish. He directed a film in his home country that someone in Hollywood thought was cool enough to pay him to make an American version. I remember sitting down and watching that first director’s cut of the American film that was turned over to us. I almost crapped myself. It was so scary. Dark, moody, and full of evil characters. Unfortunately “Scream” swept through like a hurricane and suddenly everyone wanted teen slasher movies again. So a new opening was shot and the film was cut to hell and that version you get off the shelf in Blockbuster is rather poor.

I have a ton of email to respond to from the last several days. Please everyone bare with me a day or so. I hear my bed calling again. I think I might answer.

In Dreams You’re Mine All Of The Time …

What is it about horror and oldies songs? There’s something about the sugary sweet melodies of late 1950’s, early 1960’s teen pop and romantic crooners that makes horror movies and television even scarier.

There’s a horror movie in post-production right now that I recently saw part of and it has the same thing. Bubble-gum music from when my mother was a little girl and it’s eerie. It got me thinking of how that kind of music really sets the tone—even though it’s seemingly the exact opposite. A soft ballad from thirty-plus years ago in a dark and creepy house will make your skin crawl.

I’m reminded of the absoluate scariest episode of “The X-Files”—that one from season 4 with the weird inbred family, “Home”. They play Johnny Mathis’ “Wonderful! Wonderful!” a few times it makes me squirm in my chair. Or how about the William Gibson episode from season 5, “Kill Switch”, with it’s use of “Twilight Time” by The Platters?

Steven King understands it. He’s always quoting song lyrics in his stories and his movies make use of the same thing. Of course “Christine” is probably the perfect example of this since the the demon car is from that era. But even a really bad King movie like “Sleepwalkers” makes use of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” and it’s spooky.

But perhaps the scariest of all is David Lynch and the “Candy-Colored Clown” of “Blue Velvet”. The psychotic Frank, played with perfection by Dennis Hopper, gets a very effeminate Dean Stockwell to lip sync to Roy Obison’s “In Dreams” while holding a light to his face like a microphone—casting ghoulish shadows.

A candy-colored clown they call the sandman
Tiptoes to my room every night
Just to sprinkle stardust and to whisper,
‘Go to sleep. Everything is all right.’

If that doesn’t want to make you keep the lights on at night, I don’t know what will.