Things I Have Learned – Part I

I had initially planned on naming this rant “Things I Have Learned,” but as we will be in production for season one in a few short weeks (August and September 2019), I am positive there will be more things I will have learned following that debacle and thus another post.  My second thought was “Things I Have Learned Pre-Season One,” but that seems a bit long and could ultimate get incredibly long if the web series actually takes off and goes into multiple seasons.  Can you imagine “Things I Have Learned Post Season Ten But Pre-Season Eleven?”  It just would not do and can you really have 11 seasons about a drunken drug-addled ’60s throwback pseudo-racist and sexist yet loveable ghost?  Pretty sure even one season is unrealistic with that as a premise!

Instead, we have Part I of what will be as many parts as the number of times I get frustrated and develop a list of things that need to be voiced out onto the Interwebs, regardless of whether anyone else agrees with or even wants to read them.  Many of these things I knew about prior to starting the Hearst Castle Ghost web series project.  Many of these things I will bring up repeatedly.  Some of these things may get their own rant someday.

You might have experience with some of these things and agree with my point of view, in which case, “Good on ya.” You might learn something from my mistaken ideas or mishaps, in which case, “You are welcome.”  You might disagree with some or all my points of view, in which case, “You are a moron not entitled to an opinion.”  No matter which of these cases may apply, here is the list of some of the things I have learned in starting up the Hearst Castle Ghost Internet comedy:

Production Crews Are Necessary

Low budget does not mean without help.  There are some things you can do by yourself, but when it comes to filming multiple actors you need a director present to keep things flowing.  The same is true for the need of camera operators when you are filming multiple angles.  At a minimum these two groups of people are a requirement for any media production with moving parts and you should not try to fill these roles alone.  This is even more critical if you are in any of the scenes.

We shot the preproduction footage in Tennessee where Greg currently resides.  As a result of the location I lost access to any and all support staff which I would normally call upon for a quick hand during an hour or two of shooting.  Thus, all the production staff roles fell on my shoulders and we were forced to record plenty of extra takes as we had no external eyes ensuring things stayed in frame.  Thankfully season one production will be occurring on my stomping grounds where I will have access to a host of professionals whom I can bribe with food (aka alcohol) for assistance.

Auto Anything Is Evil

We live in an era of technological marvels that continue to expand and improve daily.  These things tend to make our lives easier and quite often will remove the guesswork for many tasks, as is the case of autofocus and auto-exposure on digital camera equipment.  If you happen to be taking pictures or shooting videos of your cat doing the same exact thing that everyone else’s cat does, then this modern marvel is just perfect for you (I would also recommend leaving the lens cap on).  If you are filming anything else, then these functions are no longer marvels but instead saboteurs out to destroy your time and efforts. 

Do yourself a favor, turn off auto anything on your cameras and instead pay a friend some chocolate (liqueur) to keep an eye on the recording screen and occasionally adjust a level or two.  Pretty certain a four-year-old would be more consistent than the digital cameras within anyone’s price range.  Either that or be ready to hate your life in post-production.  The choice is yours.

Last Minute Orders Are Never On Time

This is a given and one of the universal rules that apply to everything in life.  This includes rush orders; we all know they aren’t a real thing but instead a check box that adds an idiot tax to any order.  Don’t depend on anything being shipped to you to arrive on time and you will never find yourself spending 10X the original price for a quick replacement.  Granted, if you want the original order to arrive tomorrow, simply purchase a non-returnable replacement at a brick and mortar store today.

Never Film Without Air Conditioning

Obviously, there are instances where you have no control over the temperature of a set, such as for outdoor shots.  For everywhere else, make sure you have air conditioning available and that it can cool your set down to below freezing levels.  Not only are costumes and makeup hot but lighting and electrical equipment generate a ton of heat and will quickly turn your 18 degree set into a 37+ degree oven before you can say, “Action.”  And no one wants to see back sweat.  Just saying.

Proper Lighting Is Key

You want to be able to control as many aspects of your filming as possible to improve your chances of success.  Or at least a successful shoot.  One of the easiest things to control is your set lighting.  Given the choice between a god-like camera and some extra lights, you will want to choose the lights every time and twice on Sunday. 

For Hearst Castle Ghost we shoot almost everything against a green screen background (chroma key), so this is vitally important.  If you shoot live chroma key, you cannot survive without proper lighting.  However, even for simple shots against a plain white background you are better off purchasing a camera that is a step or two down and spending the difference on lighting.  You will thank yourself in the long run.

Adobe Premiere Needs A New UX Team

I’ve had this argument before, but Adobe Premiere needs a complete user interface/experience overhaul.  I know all the counter arguments of, “It has always been this way and the professionals using it are used to it,” etc. To which I reply with an enthusiastic, “Bullshit.” I have yet to find a person who only, and I mean only, works in Adobe Premiere and, as such a person does not exist, there is no person in the known universe who is not used to using CTRL-Y to redo the last operation.  So, piss off Premiere purists, you and your product’s UI are outdated and in need of some serious reworking, much like the first ten generations of airplanes that crashed 50+% of the time regardless of how use to the controls the pilots might have been. 

It Is Easier To Herd Cats That You Don’t Mind Hurting

Working with people in general can be difficult and working with artistic ones is very much like the old metaphor of herding cats.  Herding cats is always going to be a challenge, but it is much easier to do when you can give a cat a good shove with your foot to its hind quarters (aka a swift kick in the ass).  On that same chord, there is no denying it is far easier to work with people whose relationship is a paid one rather than people who are your friends or family.  That difference in difficulty is often based on your willingness to provide said swift kick in the ass. 

Effectively, paid people are more likely to follow your instructions or carry out a task on time than those that are friends or family.  With friends and family you run the risk of hurting the relationship by placing that same level of demand on them.  Paid people you can fire.  Friends and family you have to bury.  See the differences?  That is not to say that working with friends or family doesn’t have its benefits, but you need to be aware of the hurdles and assess your ability to put foot to hind quarter.