Week 41: Guided Meditation with Judd Frazier

(Watch in HD)

[Thank you first and foremost to the lovely and talented Ms. Jillian LaVinka, not only for her wonderful performance, but for her camera work as well.  Thanks to Mr. Daniel Loeser, for shooting all of the interiors (hopefully you'll see him in front of the camera in an upcoming episode).  And thank you once again to Mr. Kevin MacLeod of Incomptech for the royalty-free music (bless you, sir!).]

I’ve been getting into meditation more in the last couple of months.  It helps me with the insane juggling act I’m trying to pull off.  One of the things I’ve tried is listening to some guided meditations.  Some of these guys are very good (and some are very bad), and I stole a lot from them for this character (inflection, cadence, diction, etc).  There’s this one Scottish guy who has the most soothing voice ever.  Anyway, this led me to one of my “what if” questions, which was, “What if one of these meditation tape guys guided you into a deep relaxation… then touched you inappropriately, in your mind?

It’s creepy, weird, and fairly non-sensical, but that’s the idea that led to this little exploration.  I wanted to ride the line between funny and really unsettling.  How’d I do?  This episode crosses the dreaded five-minute mark.  There’s this strange internet taboo about comedy being over five minutes.  I’ve kind of stopped caring about that.  I care about pacing, for sure, and keeping it moving, but I’m less interested in arbitrary time-limits.  I had a specific idea for the flow and build of this one, and it took as long as it took.  If it hurts my view count, so what?  It’s art.

Let’s talk about how this one was made.  First off, I wrote it.  There wasn’t much room for improv because I knew it was all going to be voiceover, and anything we did had to fit that, or vice versa.  Once I’d written it I recorded scratch voiceover tracks for each of the scenes.  We’d roll camera, hit play on my phone, and then adjust our performances so they’d line up (more or less) with the recording.  It was always tricky at first, but as we got to know the rhythm of each recording better (through repetition) we got better at knowing what marks we needed to hit and when.

Quick aside here to say how great Jillian was.  Acting, when limited to silent reactions, is really tough.  There is a very fine line between not revealing anything and going cartoony, and I thought Jillian gave a perfect and nuanced performance.  She didn’t have to say anything in order for you to get a sense of the character she was playing.  Talent + training, y’all.

One of the toughest things about this shoot was the fact that we didn’t have anyone to operate the camera when we were shooting in the park.  Usually I can find somebody, but the timing was bad that day.  This meant that I had to get creative with the shots.  The establishing shot in the forest, for instance: I panned the camera past Jillian until she was out of frame, then I locked it on the tripod, and I ran to behind that tree while Jillian jumped behind the camera, so it looked like it was all one continuous take.  These are the tricks of the no-budget filmmaker.

The condom on the rock is an inside joke for anyone who knows that waterfall in Prospect Park (all exteriors were shot at Prospect Park, incidentally).  There are always condoms on the ground around that area.  It’s really nasty.  Apparently it’s a big pick-up spot.  Climbing into the waterfall itself was pretty sketchy.  I had to climb down the high wall on my right, and the lip of the waterfall was very slippery.  I probably should have dipped my feet in bleach after that, but I still seem to have ten toes, so no harm no foul.

On the post-production side of things this one turned into a monster.  Final Cut was acting extremely buggy and I kept getting these weird audio anomalies.  Ghosts in the machine.  There was a lot of audio to deal with, too, as I had to rerecord the voiceover and find background music/transition sound-effects.  Kevin MacLeod of Incomptech really saved me on the music front, once again.  Best resource for a no-budget filmmaker, ever.

Things slowed down even further once I added some filters to make it more dreamlike (a vignette filter and high saturation filter) and built the transition pieces.  It takes me forever to render when working in HD, and every time I make a change I have to rerender.  I don’t even shoot in 1080, anymore, even thought it would often be advantageous, because my computer just really can’t handle it.  This is, of course, because 50in50 is edited using a 2.5 year old MacBook Pro.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great machine, but it’s really just not powerful enough to edit HD video.  I find myself constantly fantasizing about one of those new 12-core Mac Pro towers, all maxed out.  Oh, the things I would do…

Anyway, I’m off to Oregon for a couple weeks to do a new plays festival.  Not exactly sure what my days are going to be looking like, and obviously I want to focus on the play I’m going to be in, but optimistically, I’m hoping to shoot one while there, and cut together episode 42, which I shot last week (it was the toughest 50in50 shoot ever, by a huge margin).  We shall see.  In the meantime, got questions or comments?  Please share ‘em!

All the best,

BR  10.8.10  4.59pm

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~ by 50in50 on October 8, 2010.

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