It's taking a fair amount of time to write out the script, and some details have changed from the early conception of the project. I'm debating whether to have four or five major characters - originally there were supposed to be a Man, Woman, Leader, Student, and Guitarist. I kind of rolled the student and guitarist into one for the latest version; this affects a pivotal scene later in the film, but I think it'll work out OK. Less actors required means less time spent casting, and less likelihood of casting friends or non-actors due to convenience (this almost always happens: cf War Crimes).

I think last time I mentioned some considerations for locations. The story in its current iteration has four main locations - a forest, a spring in the forest, a prairie, and a beach. As far as forest locations, Gainesville is surrounded by trees, and there are at least two or three places that will be fine (I've used them before and no police came in squad cars). I'll be on the lookout for more scenic/impressive forest sites when I start location scouting in a week or two, but if I don't find anything else, that will at least be covered. The forest sequences will be 1 or maybe 2 shooting days.

Next is the spring. This is a little tougher. I've done some research on the Florida state park website and the nearest are Manatee and Ichetucknee Springs. However, shooting there without attracting attention is going to be tricky. Maybe early in the morning on a weekday? Let me know if you have any ideas for locations/strategies.

The prairie is also difficult, since a major part of the action takes place here - maybe 2 shooting days. We wouldn't be able to simply grab a long shot of the view from the road and then pack up. Park rangers might get suspicious of a couple of people walking around in fatigues with machine guns... again, let me know if you have any suggestions. The other issue is that much of Paynes Prairie is currently underwater. I may have to find another place to film most of the prairie scenes and fill in some scenic long shots later to imply the location.

Finally, the beach sequence that ends the film. The best possible place I found for this is Big Talbot Island state park about 20 minutes from Jacksonville. There are some great beaches on the Panhandle that are very natural and isolated, but I'm not driving that far for less than 4 minutes of screen time. The beach near Jacksonville apparently has an unusual dune structure and several dead trees that break up just off the shore. Hopefully this place will be isolated enough that we can leave Gainesville around 8 AM, shoot there from 10:30 to 1:00 or so, and be back before 3 PM.

The current shooting schedule calls for four days, but it may be increased to five.

If you want to get involved either as cast or crew, please e-mail me or post a comment here. I need all the help I can get for this project, which is planned for the month of July.


An excerpt

Here's the first scene and credit sequence for "Survival Record." The rough draft is about 30% done at this point.



1. FADE IN on the rusting hulk of a bulldozer, sitting under harsh light. Sparse, dry grass surrounds the machine in a ring. The shot continues for fifteen seconds.

2. (continued shot from 1) A MAN, half-dressed in fatigues and half-dressed in normal clothes, enters the frame from the camera side, carrying a small briefcase-sized box. He walks cautiously towards the bulldozer. The beeping from the box accelerates. He removes a stake and flag from a marking kit hanging from his chest, then places the stake in the ground and attaches the flag. He walks around the bulldozer, making sure to skirt around it without getting too close. As he crosses to the far side, we see the flag, which says "ATOM" in black lettering. He walks into the distance.



CLOSE UP: a hand marking a red vertical slash on paper.

ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: an enormous, malignant mushroom cloud blossoms.


CLOSE UP: a second slash, next to the first.

MEDIUM SHOT: the shadows of three people are permanently burned into a white wall.

CLOSE UP: a group of five slashes. A sixth is added.

POV SHOT: intensely shaking, the camera is moving forward through a half-completed housing project and into the forest.

CLOSE UP: eight slashes.

CLOSE UP: woman is crouched in a dried ditch, hands over her neck. The camera pulls back, revealing empty land into the far distance.


On the technical front, the Canon 518 arrived yesterday. It's in excellent condition and has a great look with the teleconverter. This will probably be the camera used in the film itself. For shooting most of the project, I've made another purchase - a Nizo S48. A somewhat pricey camera, but it has a tack-sharp Schneider-Kreuznach lens as well as multiple frame rates (up to 54 fps) and a manual exposure control. This will be good for ensuring that the aperture doesn't close on some shots directly into the sun. It will probably be the main shooting camera, with the Bolex as backup. The Canon will be used for first person (due to its light weight and compact form) or risky shots that could involve some damage to the camera.

Within the next two weeks I intend to write out a production schedule with the approximate shooting dates, locations, props required, film to be ordered, and number of setups. This is the longest project I've done by about 5 minutes, but more important than the actual running length is the amount of detail involved in the production itself. This is significantly more intensive in that respect than my earlier work. I hope that it will proceed smoothly without any major crises or delays, but you can't always predict everything. That's what contingency plans are for.

Next time I'll probably write about some locations I'm considering, as well as stylistic influences for the project.

As usual, let me know if you have any comments or suggestions about the script or production.



It's been a few days since the last update. The situation with the Canon camera is close to resolved, and I have a superior Canon 518 on its way - 5x zoom with a 1.6x teleconverter, for a total of 8x. This is the same as my Bolex, but the Canon offers a smaller form factor and will maybe make less noise for shooting sync sound - I should know in a few days.

The 2 prop orders should arrive tomorrow.

I have 4 finals in the next few days, but the script is moving along. I created a fairly detailed story outline, and now I'm working back through it and writing a detailed shooting script. Since there's no dialogue in this project, formatting it as a standard script is kind of useless. Instead, I'm making a detailed transcript of each shot and my thoughts on the project. Like the process for "Taco," this should give me a reasonably accurate estimate of how much film to budget for the project, what the shooting ratio needs to be, and also how long the finished project will turn out. It looks like it will be approximately 15-17 minutes as I had originally estimated.

I've basically decided to shoot solely on S8. After thinking about it for a few days, I don't want to 'let down' a project and story that I've invested a lot of time and effort into by using miniDV. S8 will make for a much more textured film - important, since the script contains no dialogue and is very tone-dependent.

In a week or two I'll wrap shooting for "Taco." Wal-Mart's processing took slightly under two weeks last time, so expect to see that project finished in a month.

Here's a link to a rough edit of the first part (download and use QT to play):

Taco rough cut, part 1

I'm nearly at the stage where I will start casting for the SF script, which I've given the working title "Survival Record." Nothing final yet, but at this stage there are five major roles (you would be needed for anywhere from 3 to 5 shooting days) and 5-7 parts for extras (you would be required for one shooting day).

If you're in Gainesville over the summer (specifically May or July) and are willing to stay on board with this project until completion, please e-mail me or post on the comments section here and I'll get back to you with more information as it is made available.


The weekend is over...

I'm rethinking the idea of the subtitles for the SF project. I did a quick test with some dialogue, replacing the sound with subtitles. In foreign films it's not so distracting since there is still sound to reinforce the dialogue, but if you want the viewers to really pay attention to the image and there is no spoken dialogue, the titles make for an effect which I think is too disorienting. It was a pretty good idea, I thought, but I probably won't use it. Now I'm working on the script with the intention of having a few very minimal lines of spoken dialogue. The majority of the film will just have music or some environment sounds. I rewrote the opening scene with this in mind; implication instead of exposition.

For example, it originally went like this:

1. FADE IN on the rusting hulk of a bulldozer, sitting under harsh light. Sparse, dry grass surrounds the machine in a ring. The shot continues for fifteen seconds.

2. JOHN, half-dressed in fatigues and half-dressed in normal clothes, enters the frame from the camera side, carrying a small briefcase-sized box. He walks cautiously around the bulldozer, then turns around and addresses someone behind the camera.


3. MEDIUM SHOT (reverse shot) of the subject: a woman dressed in ragged clothes, with a machine gun slung on her shoulder. This is ELIZABETH.

The others are waiting.

After the rewrite using sound instead of speech:

1. FADE IN on the rusting hulk of a bulldozer, sitting under harsh light. Sparse, dry grass surrounds the machine in a ring. The shot continues for fifteen seconds.

2. JOHN, half-dressed in fatigues and half-dressed in normal clothes, enters the frame from the camera side, carrying a small briefcase-sized box. He walks cautiously around the bulldozer. The beeping from the box accelerates. He then turns around and addresses someone behind the camera.

3. MEDIUM SHOT (reverse shot) of the subject: a woman dressed in ragged clothes, with a machine gun slung on her shoulder. This is ELIZABETH. She points into the distance, past the bulldozer, and walks out of the frame.

I think it gets across the same idea with less words. There's no need for John to say "radiation" when the Geiger counter's rising beeps can imply the same thing.

I also ordered some props for the project - several military shirts, pants, jackets, ammo bags, and an old medical respirator kit that will come in handy. I fleshed out most of the plot yesterday. To write this project, I'm going to try starting by writing the completed story, but in a few paragraphs. Each iteration will contain more detail, working out specific scenes and eventually every shot. For my current project "Taco" I wrote the script with each shot described. I think this works pretty well, especially with film, because each second costs money. This method allows a reasonable shooting ratio (around 2:1 for "Taco", I believe) since every shot is known in advance.

I still haven't decided whether to shoot the SF project on Super 8mm film or miniDV. I have a Canon GL2 for DV production, but the S8 would give a much more cinematic quality (at greater cost). Let me know if you have a strong opinion one way or another. A lot also depends on how the first day's shooting for "Taco" turns out after processing. If a good result and reliable, consistent processing and workflow seems achievable, I will probably shoot on Super 8. The footage should be back by the end of this week or early next week.



The eBay situation is not resolved. Still e-mailing the seller. I'll keep the site updated as this situation unfolds.

On a lighter note, I'm still pushing around ideas for the SF script. I think I'm going to keep it free of spoken dialogue. Intertitles and subtitles will provide the narrative elements, and the images will be used more freely than in a conventional fiction film. This should give an unusual tone to the piece (think "La Jetee" without the narrator, using subtitles instead) that will separate it from the vast number of post-apocalyptic SF films.


Update continued.

The Canon 318 arrived today. I was hoping this would be a small, lightweight alternative to the fairly heavy and large Bolex. It's definitely small and compact, and the build quality is good. However, the auto exposure meter appears to be broken, refusing to respond even with fresh batteries. The CdS photoreceptors sometimes go bad in these cameras, and it's not a simple or cheap fix. I've contacted the seller to resolve the issue. I can't anticipate using the camera in the present condition.

I called the processing facility. My film is expected to come back April 26th. Hopefully it'll be a few days earlier, but if not, no big deal. After finals my first project will be to transfer the film to miniDV, import it to my computer, and start editing "Taco".

I've come up with a few ideas for the SF project; originally it was going to be shot fairly conventionally, but the device I want to incorporate is a film camera found and used by one of the survivors; it would lend a kind of photojournalistic feel to the story, as well as enabling me to avoid shooting the entire thing on Super 8. I guess the explanation would be that electronic devices no longer function properly, so mechanical cameras are the only remaining form of image capture. I wonder how processing would work...

It's probably better not to derail the idea with specifics at this point.



I'm still waiting on the Canon 318 Super 8 camera I bought on eBay. It's been approximately a week and a half; the seller claims it shipped last week, but if it doesn't arrive within 3 days I'll give negative feedback. I can't stand slow shipments.

The first reel for "Taco" is currently en route to Kansas, where it will be processed. I expect to have it back within 2 weeks at most. I still need to clean the projector thoroughly before I run any film in it.

Finals are coming up, and I have several papers to write as classes wind down. Expect relatively infrequent updates for the next few weeks. After school is finished I'll finish shooting "Taco" and work on the script for the SF project.

Here's a link to the root level of my site, where you can download "War Crimes," my most recent short. Save the file "War Crimes.mp4" to your disk; a recent version of Quicktime is required.

War Crimes



I've decided to make this website to keep a record of my filmmaking activities. I've been producing short films for about a year, generally shot on miniDV. My productions are based in Gainesville, Florida. I generally have virtually no budget, but strive for high production values nonetheless. At the root level of my website (http://plaza.ufl.edu/ekubota/) you will find my latest project, "War Crimes". It's an MPEG-4 file that requires Quicktime to play.

My next project is a short with the working title "Taco". I recently acquired 2 Super 8 cameras courtesy of eBay for less than $30 each. Film is approximately $9 per cartridge and $5 for developing. Each cartridge gives 3m20s running time at 18 fps. The project is actually a mixture of film and video - I want to exploit the visual characteristics and style traditionally associated with each medium. I shot parts of the first sequence yesterday with my Bolex 280 Macrozoom, on Kodachrome 40 color reversal film. In two or three weeks (after finals), I'll finish the shooting. Processing time is generally 1-2 weeks on the Super 8 film, so it'll be at least a month or two before this project is finished. Running time will be approximately 3 minutes.

In the pre-production phase is a realistic SF narrative short. No title at this point, but the basic plot centers around a group of people after nuclear strikes have rendered major cities uninhabitable. The infrastructure has mostly collapsed, and Americans are forced to move into rural areas to survive. I want to achieve a kind of stylistic synthesis of Tarkovsky's "Stalker" and the Philip K. Dick story "Second Variety." Effects will be limited, but I do have some realistic props, such as MP5K replicas, a Thompson replica, several pistols (1911s, a USP, Glocks, Colt revolvers). If you want to get involved in this project, send me an e-mail. Production will probably begin this summer. This will be my most ambitious project yet - probably a 16-17 minute running time, hopefully shot on Super 8. I'm looking for actors and crew members, but no specifics yet.