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Los Angeles' New Tech Scene Flourishes Downtown
In my article for Variety, find out why digital media companies like All Def Digital, Collab, Evite and Portal A have turned away from Venice, Santa Monica, Playa Vista and other high-rent Silicon Beach hot spots and set up shop in Downtown Los Angeles.
Also check out my companion video for the article, above.
Stunts Went Old School in Oscar-Nominated Films
Filmmakers used every digital tool available to amp up the action in “Deadpool.” In the film’s hyper-violent freeway chase scene, stunt performers were shot against green screens in vehicle interiors or otherwise bare soundstages, then virtually placed into (or hanging off of) careening CG autos alongside wholly-digital characters and a backdrop created with multi-camera plates of freeways in Detroit, Chicago, and Vancouver.
But sometimes the most innovative and effective approach is to dial back the digital technology and go old school as stunt coordinator and second unit director Mic Rodgers did on “Hacksaw Ridge,” the true story of a pacifist’s battlefield experiences in World War II.
“For me, old is new,” says Rodgers. “We kept it as real and as in-the-camera as we could.”
Oscar Contenders in Production Design Evoke Past, Present and Future
Production designers working on this season’s awards contenders ("La La Land," "The Handmaiden," "Passengers," "Moonlight," "Rules Don't Apply") drew on some unlikely sources to create eye-catching sets that not only provided a stage for the action, but also subtly reinforced the narrative.
Visual Effects Shop Makes Big Bangs for Netflix's 'Luke Cage'
When the writers of the new Netflix series “Luke Cage” included a scene in which the bad guys try to kill the hero by blowing up a building he’s in, they couldn’t have foreseen that it would take a VFX team a total of 130 worker days to make those quick keystrokes come to life.
How HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Keeps Its Characters' Costumes in Order
It’s hard enough for viewers to sort out the hundreds of characters on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Imagine what it’s like for the show’s costume supervisor, Sheena Wichary, who has to keep track of every stitch of clothing (including multiples of the same outfit) and their state of wear at any point in the narrative, across separate units shooting in geographically diverse locales such as Northern Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Morocco, and Croatia.
Wichary used to do things the old-fashioned way: poring over scripts with a ruler and a highlighter. But three seasons ago, she went high-tech with a cloud-based application for the web and smart devices that uses a software algorithm to automate the script-breakdown process. The program, called SyncOnSet, sorts out characters with “all the costume changes and our budget from episodes one to 10,” says Wichary. “This would ordinarily be a two-man job involving weeks of work.”
Hollywood Goes Czech in Variety!
From Lucasfilm's "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles," immediately post-Velvet Revolution in 1990, to the upcoming Amazon/Sky Channel historical drama "Britannia," I examine the evolving state of film and TV production in the Czech Republic in Variety.
How Social Media Can Point to Potential Oscar Nominees and Winners
In the old days, Oscar watchers would look to Las Vegas to get a quick breakdown of which nominees were mostly likely to take home a statuette on awards night. Today, they can gauge the potential winners, as well as gain actionable insights on how to better market their films, via a process known as “social listening,” an automated analysis of mentions on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
''Alien: Covenant In Utero' Puts Virtual Reality Spin on Fox Franchise
'“Alien” fans have watched a long line of endoparasitoid extraterrestrials bloodily burst forth from the host bodies of unfortunate astronauts since the first entry in the franchise debuted in 1979.
Now, for the first time fans will be able to experience it from the creature’s perspective in “Alien: Covenant In Utero,” a two-minute 360-degree video debuting April 26 exclusively on Oculus.
Virtual Reality in Sports Poses Unique Challenges for Producers
“The average person thinks they’d love to stand on the sidelines to watch an NFL game,” says Cliff Plumer, president of Jaunt VR’s production arm, Jaunt Studio. “They’ll learn that it’s the worst place to stand. You can have an action all the way across the field, and it’ll seem very far away. So how you cover that for VR is much more challenging than traditional broadcast.”
How They Made "Fight of the Living Dead: Experiment 88"
If you want to find out which YouTubers get ripped to pieces by the undead in the new reality-competition series “Fight of the Living Dead: Experiment 88,” you’ll have to subscribe to YouTube Red and watch the show on the BlackBoxTV channel.
But if you have questions about how they cast it, where they shot it, the zombie to YouTuber ratio and the behind the scenes techniques employed by the producers to keep contestants and viewers on-edge, as well as plans for a sequel, you’ll find answers in the video above.
Go90's "The Runner" Series Explained
I visit the command center for Go90's "The Runner" and get the lowdown on the mobile-first reality competition series from host Matt Patrick (a.k.a. MatPat), executive producer/Pilgrim Media Group CEO Craig Piligian, and Chip Canter, GM of digital entertainment/Go90 for Verizon.
What did it take to stage this year's Super Bowl halftime show by Lady Gaga? I don't know. But this piece I did about The Who's Super Bowl halftime show in 2010 will give you an idea.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"/"War for Planet of the Apes" director Matt Reeves isn't a new newcomer to the upside-down simian-ruled world. As a child he was obsessed with the original franchise, launched in 1968 with "Planet of the Apes," starring Charlton Heston. "I had a best friend named Mark Sanderson," Reeves told Film School Rejects. "We'd call each other on the phone and say "Let's go play apes!' We would act out 'Planet of the Apes.' I made a Super 8 movie with the title 'Galactic Battles,'" mixing "Apes" with "Star Wars."
If you want the full story about Reeves' adolescent cinematic collaborations with Sanderson, J.J. Abrams ("Star Trek," "Star Wars"), cinematographer Larry Fong and others, read my blog post "The Real Kids of 'Super 8.'"
What better way to ring in the holidays than with a look back at Bob Hope's annual Christmas shows for our troops overseas?
A five-figure bonus check, you say? Downing a bowl of hundred-proof egg nog so large you hallucinate that a young Connie Stevens is wriggling on your lap, dressed in a Santa suit?
Well, all I have is this article I wrote about Old Ski Nose for The Hollywood Reporter back in 2001.
On the plus side, it does feature an anecdote from Connie Stevens. She's still wriggling away at the age of 73, but most of the other people I talked to for the article have since passed away. Hope died in July 2003, fifty-nine days after his 100th birthday. His son Tony Hope died less than a year later at the age of 63. His former head writer Mort Lachman and honorary Hollywood mayor Johnny Grant are gone now, too.
Of course, I didn't actually talk to Hope. He had stopped giving interviews by this point. (Lachman told me Hope's vital signs were good. If one's health is being discussed in terms of vital signs, it's generally time to start planning the funeral.) I was given a canned quote undoubtedly manufactured by his longtime publicist, the reedy-voiced Ward Grant, who died in 2007 at the age of 75.
At this point, I'm supposed to write something like, "Thanks for the memories, Bob!" But that would be beyond cheesy, wouldn't it? So I'll just wish everyone a Merry Christmas.