Cirina Catania,, Founder & Lead Creative, The Catania Group
Andrew David James, Actor/Fight Choreographer, andrewdavidjames.com
Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter, TroyGould and The Hollywood Reporter, jhandel.com
Philip Hodgetts, President, Lumberjack System
Anne Toole, Writer, The Write Toole
Dan May, President, Blackmagic Design, Inc.
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we’re talking about writing because every story starts with a single word. We start with filmmaker Cirina Catania. She has made a career creating non scripted programming, except even non scripted shows have a script, as Cirina explains tonight.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel covers the media industry as the entertainment labor reporter for the Hollywood Reporter. Tonight he tells us how he made the transition from computer scientist to lawyer to journalist, a process that was totally accidental.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts, the CEO of Lumberjack System explains how new technology is automating transcriptions and the creation of scripts for editing.
Larry Jordan: Anne Toole is a WGA nominated writer of webisodes and video games. Tonight, she explains what it takes to create a successful script for a video game.
Larry Jordan: Andrew David James is a fight coordinator by day, but a playwright and children’s book author by night. Tonight he explains the challenges of writing for children.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus the latest news from James DeRuvo and DoddleNEWS, plus Dan May, the president of Blackmagic Design shares breaking news on brand new products from Blackmagic Design. The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts – production – filmmakers – post production – and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world. Hi, my name is Larry Jordan.
Larry Jordan: Last week, the FAA held its second Drone Advisory Committee meeting in Reno, Nevada to discuss integrating drones into the National Airspace System. The Committee is chaired by the CEO of Intel, Brian Krzanich, and has three goals. First, to determine resolutions regarding the efficiency and safety of integrating drones into the National Air Space. Second, to determine who is responsible for what at the Federal, State and Local level, and third, determine how to fund the full complement of activities and services required by both the government and industry to safely integrate these drone operations into the National Air Space over the long term.
Larry Jordan: The Committee hopes to provide interim recommendations this May with a final report in October. The next meeting is scheduled for May 3rd in Washington D.C.
Larry Jordan: By the way, to stay current in our industry, I want to invite you to subscribe to our free weekly show newsletter at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Every issue, every week, gives you an inside look at the Buzz, quick links to the different segments on the show, and curated articles of special interest to filmmakers. Best of all every issue is free and comes out on Friday.
Larry Jordan: Now it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: So what’s the news this week?
James DeRuvo: Well you may be wanting to talk about writing, but I’m talking about cameras.
Larry Jordan: Alright, talk.
James DeRuvo: Remember when we talked about the Panasonic GH5 during CES?
Larry Jordan: Yes.
James DeRuvo: They’ve gotten rid of the 4K crop factor so now you get this beautiful end to end 4K image which is probably a 6K image that has been downscaled to 4K and it’s got that five axis dual image stabilization. They announced that the shipping date is going to be from March 28th, however there are so many pre-orders for the Panasonic GH5, that it’s on back order and they’re struggling to catch up.
Larry Jordan: Before it even ships. That’s good news.
James DeRuvo: So those who have pre-ordered, may not get their cameras on time. But they’re working really hard to play catch up.
Larry Jordan: OK, what else we got?
James DeRuvo: The pre-orders will be fulfilled in the order they were received, so if you buy one now, it’s going to be a while. Speaking of other cameras, GoPro had their earnings call this week with their investors, and they did reveal $116 million loss due to the Karma drone recall, but now that the Karma drone has been released, they’re probably going to recoup a lot of that. They also announced that they will be introducing a GoPro Hero 6, and Hero 6 Session later this year, and there’s talk that they may launch a special stereoscopic Hero action camera. They already have the Omni which is a six camera rig where you put six GoPro Hero 4s in the rig and you can create a 360 degree spherical image. But it looks like they might be taking advantage of the new attachments for the iPhone that turns your iPhone into a 360 degree camera. So the scuttlebutt is that that’s what GoPro’s really working on.
Larry Jordan: Interesting. What else we got?
James DeRuvo: Finally, Rokinon has added a 20 millimeter Prime to their XEEN series of lenses. It’s the eighth in the series, it’s a 20mm T1.9 designed exclusively for 4K Ultra high definition video, 11 blade iris, 200 degree focus rotation. Supports every sensor from full frame to APS-C down to Super 35, and mounts including the Panavision, Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Micro 4/3 and it’s available now for pre-order at around 2500 bucks.
Larry Jordan: Not only has Rokinon announced some new lenses, but also Cooke Optics announced some brand new Primes, that are available coming in rental shops, which is at the exact opposite. Rokinon is toward the lower end.
James DeRuvo: I think they’re pretty fast, if I remember correctly, F1.8 and a pretty nice buttery lens. Really big like around 114 millimeters or something like that.
Larry Jordan: Yes, and what other good news do we have this week? I need you to tease what’s coming up.
James DeRuvo: Well Blackmagic announced this week a trio of new products aimed directly at streaming broadcast video.
Larry Jordan: To show you how quickly we respond, we’ve got the President of Blackmagic US, Dan May, who’ll be coming on in just a few seconds to explain exactly what those streaming broadcast products are.
Larry Jordan: James, for people that need more information, where can they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these and other stories can be found at doodlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for DoddleNEWS and he returns every week with a new DoddleNEWS update. James, thanks so much, we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: OK, take care.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Dan May is the President of Blackmagic Design and has been with the company since 2006. He oversees their north and south American operations and as always, it’s fun to say hello Dan, welcome back.
Dan May: Hello Larry, always good to be with you.
Larry Jordan: A bunch of new announcements from Blackmagic. What’s the news?
Dan May: We have our new ATEM Television Studio HD, which is a new version of our nice 995 priced HD live production switcher. Nice compact body, lots of great features, but you just are struck by the design of this product. A really nice product that people who have been looking at us as a live production company know that we continue to advance our game on these lines of products.
Larry Jordan: OK, we’ve got the ATEM switcher. What else?
Dan May: We also wanted to put out the web presenter. One of the things that our other ATEM Television Studio was able to do was to do some H.264 encoding which was great for being able to do some amounts of streaming, but we realized that not everyone that had ATEMs needed to do that, so we decided to actually split this out into its own new product, and this is a great way for people that want to have a high broadcast quality. You know, internet broadcasting is this big wave of the future and more people want to get online, more people want to distribute this content. This is a great way for people to take their professional cameras that we all have, know and love, interchangeable lenses and great image quality, and be able to use those as a web camera. So having this small device which is able to go into Twitch or Facebook Live or Periscope, any of these applications that people have become familiar with streaming, this is a way for them to up their game, be able to have this great 720 broadcast, where the compression is being done in the box, and have the great optics of their professional cameras for their web streaming. So it’s definitely a new direction for us, but really great in conjunction with the ATEM Television Studio HD, but also as a standalone product for those looking to do that kind of web streaming broadcast that really is a big wave of the future.
Larry Jordan: There was a third box announced. What was that?
Dan May: We also wanted to go out with our new Hyperdeck Studio Mini. We’ve been known for our various Hyperdeck and video recorder boxes for recording in playback devices. Hyperdeck Studio Mini adds a blend of both of those products together. Obviously a very small form factor in this 1/3 of our 1RU size box and I see two places where this really fits in where some of our other products aren’t able to be in the same spot is, when you start doing multiple camera live production, and you see the need to record eight, ten or 16 cameras at a time, and being able to manage that footprint for “How am I going to record all of those cameras?” This small box allows you to have that ability to have many inputs being recorded simultaneously. The other thing that’s really interesting on this unit is the ability to load video via FTP, so if I’m running, say a chain of stores where I want to have video being played back in these stores every day, I can back from my HQ, load up via FTP these video files to the Hyperdeck Studio Mini, and have these be played back. I don’t have to worry about the store manager or the store staff uploading video to make these things play the video I want. So there’s some really cool digital signage areas I can see these products working in but also just in the normal places we see ISO recording or people trying to do playback and recording like we do on our Hyperdecks and video assist products.
Larry Jordan: Why the emphasis on live streaming?
Dan May: Well it seems like there’s a big push for people to get out there and get their messages across, and to distribute video in ways that are what we call maybe non traditional, it seems like we’ve had so many customers that have come to us over the years and said, “We really want to do this in a very easy but high quality way, and how can you help that?” We’ve had products that fit into this mix before, but this is really the first product we can truly say, “This is a great way for someone, whether you’re an educator, or someone that’s looking to do this for the first time, have a very simple, and easy to use box that gives great high quality and be able to get your videos out there onto the internet.”
Larry Jordan: The other thing that impressed me is that you made this announcement, but not at a trade show, just as a standalone event. This is unusual for Blackmagic.
Dan May: We’ve seen in the past where we’ve gone out and made large announcements across multiple different product lines at a big trade show like NAB, but at the same time we also understand that it’s a lot to digest for people. So we’ve taken on this new mantra of “Let’s work on products and we can announce them when they’re ready to be announced,” and this is what we’re seeing now with some of these products that are coming out because now they’re ready, we can get them out, we can let NAB and IBC and these other big shows, be what they are. Meanwhile, let’s make other product announcements throughout the course of the year, when those products are done, ready to ship and get into the hands of customers quickly.
Larry Jordan: Dan, for people that want more information about the new products, where can they go on the web?
Dan May: They should definitely come and visit us at HYPERLINK “http://www.blackmagicdesign.com” www.blackmagicdesign.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word,blackmagicdesign.com and Dan May is the President of Blackmagic Design for north and south America. Dan, thanks for joining us today.
Dan May: Thanks Larry for having me.
Larry Jordan: I want to introduce you to a new website, Thalo.com. Thalo.com is an artist community and networking site for creative people to connect, be inspired and showcase their creativity. Thalo.com features content from around the world with a global perspective on all things creative. Thalo is the place for creative folks to learn, collaborate, market and sell their works. Thalo is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers, and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with the resources you need to succeed. Visit Thalo.com and discover how their community can help you connect, learn and succeed. That’s Thalo.com.
Larry Jordan: Cirina Catania is a successful writer, director, journalist, tech evangelist and filmmaker. She’s also a former senior marketing executive at MGM UA, and United Artists, and is one of the original co-founders of the Sundance Film Festival. She also produced The Buzz for almost nine years. Hello Cirina, welcome back.
Cirina Catania: Hi Larry, you forgot to say I’m a mom and a grandma.
Larry Jordan: Well yes, but I try not to bring in all of everybody’s personal life here.
Cirina Catania: It’s a huge laundry list isn’t it? I’m getting old.
Larry Jordan: Cirina, put your filmmaker hat on for a bit. How would you define a non scripted show?
Cirina Catania: In terms of the writing, how you write for it?
Larry Jordan: Yes, because we’re talking about writers, so yes.
Cirina Catania: Well first of all, non scripted really is scripted in the non scripted world. You start very early on, as early as your pitch deck to the network, and then when the network agrees to do the show, or when you’re hired to write for the show, you work with the producers at the network to develop the anticipated story beats, so when you go on the set on location or in the studio, you have your story beats on your shot list and you have to anticipate what you have to get. In other words, the beginning, middle and end, how you set up each scene and you have to have eyes in the back of your head because the story changes. So I would say the main difference when I’m writing a feature script or if I’m writing a script for a non scripted, is I can’t always anticipate where the story’s going to go. So it lives in one incarnation during production, and then in post production when you have all your media, that’s when you actually start writing your final script.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned a term that I want to have you define. You used the phrase story beats. What’s that?
Cirina Catania: For example, I’m in an Uber, I’m on my phone to Hollywood. If I’m going to do a segment for a reality show about a person that’s being interviewed on the air, I would anticipate the shots that I need. Walking out of my apartment, getting into the Uber, sitting in the Uber, we would have to light the car, we would do the long shots, the medium shots, the close ups, and then I’d get out of the car, and I would enter the presentation that I’m going to and we would have to cover it there. So the beginning would be the arrival. The middle of it would be the actual presentation, and the end would be the resolution of what happens. Does that answer the question?
Larry Jordan: I’m having a hard time telling, from your description, the difference between story beats and a shot list.
Cirina Catania: The shot list anticipates your story beat. So before you even go on location, you make a list of the shots you think you’re going to need based on the story that you’re anticipating you’re going to get. That’s where you as a director in the field or a story producer, have to be flexible because the story beats change. So, for example, god forbid we get into an accident, and I don’t make it to my presentation, but we still have to deliver a segment to the network about what happens this day on the reality show. That means a whole different story. So the story beats would change.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like, while you don’t have a script, you’ve got a pretty good idea of the story that you want to tell before you start shooting, so that there is some level of organization before the shooting begins?
Cirina Catania: Absolutely. There’s a lot of organization, so you know you’re going to be interviewing, or who you’re going to be interacting with. You know the basic situations that you’re anticipating are going to occur during that shoot day, and you try to capture all of that to bring back to the network, and then you work with your editor, and that’s when the story producer comes online and takes everything that you’ve shot, looks at your shot list and your anticipated story and your pitch deck, and then they revise the script based on what actually happened.
Larry Jordan: I was just thinking it sounds like it would be easier not having a script when you’re beginning to shoot, but it sounds like not having a script actually makes the process harder?
Cirina Catania: Yes, it would be mayhem. If you go onto a set and you don’t have an anticipated shot list, you don’t know how to anticipate where you’re going to go, what kind of crew you’re going to need, what kind of equipment you’ll need, you can’t book your people ahead of time. So you really do have to know the story you’re trying to get, and then just be flexible. Non scripted for me is more difficult to direct and write than scripted because once you get your feature script done, or your television scripted script done, then you just shoot to that. Reality and non scripted, I think, is more difficult. And I love both.
Larry Jordan: Just as a guess, how much of your work is non scripted versus scripted? Half? Two thirds? What?
Cirina Catania: For the last ten years it was mostly non scripted until about two years ago, and then I started writing on assignment feature scripts again. So I moved from working a lot in television non scripted back to doing feature scripts, and then got involved in my own documentary so I’m living this now as a writer, director for my own documentary, which in some ways is a little bit easier than working for the network because I can decide what I want to do and not do. But I still have to have a script. Every time I go out for example to shoot ‘The Wounded Warrior’ I’m doing the documentary about, I know that we’re going to go to Tempe, Arizona and it’s the first time since he’s been ill that he’s back running again, so there are story beats attached to that that I have to get, interviews I have to do with him to say, “OK, where are we? What’s happening here today? What are you anticipating? Are there any hurdles you want to overcome?” And depending on how he does, we do interviews afterwards, and you can’t anticipate things for those interviews, like when we were in Minneapolis, he pulled a hamstring, so I had to quickly get things organized and do an interview with him that had not been previously anticipated, about what had happened to him.
Larry Jordan: Who’s responsible for the story and the script in a non scripted show? Is it the producer, or the director?
Cirina Catania: Well the producers work directly with the networks. The supervising producers and the executive producers and all of the production team, works directly with the network to get everything approved, and then they hire the field director to go out and shoot per what has been previously anticipated they’re going to need. So, if I’m producing, I’m working directly with the network. If I’m field directing, I’m working directly with the producers who say, “OK, we’re going to send you out to the Peruvian Amazon and we want you to be able to teach us how to catch a crocodile.” I get to the Amazon and we build the traps and we never catch a crocodile so I have to think of something else to do. Then I get in touch with the production and I say, “Well the pink dolphins are nowhere to be seen, and we haven’t caught a crocodile, but there’s some really lethal caterpillars on the trees we can feature.” You just have to wing it Larry.
Larry Jordan: What process do you use to keep track of all the media and your content? Because with a non scripted show the volumes are just overwhelming.
Cirina Catania: Yes they are. I know on one TV series I directed, ‘Southern Steel,’ years ago, we had four cameras going all day every day, six days a week for six months. That was a lot of media, and what I did at the time, this was years ago, I did a paper log every day and I would write down what had happened during the day, and an approximation of what I believed we could get that then the story editors who were working in LA could use to develop the story for that particular day. At Nat Geo when we were chasing lightning, I kept little notes. I have a little book that sits in my pocket, and I pull it out every time there’s an important story beat that happens during a day. But I found that those written notes weren’t getting to the editors, and I think Philip’s going to talk about Lumberjack, so now I have the ability on my phone to actually keep track of all of what’s happening during the shoot during the day and I can add additional story beats or I can do the person, place, location during the shoot day and that helps the editors keep track when they get all the footage. If you don’t organize your footage, you’re really stuck.
Larry Jordan: We are going to talk to Philip Hodgetts in about five minutes talking about a new software system called Lumberjack, so we’ll save that for Philip. How do you determine when you’ve shot enough?
Cirina Catania: That’s where my creativity comes in. That’s what I love. I guess the beginning, the middle and the end of each piece I get the establishing shot, the medium shot, the close ups, the cut aways, the action shots which you’ve talked about a lot in your classes. The action shots are really important. But I try not to over shoot, and when I have that “Aha” moment, when I get that shot and I know that it looks great, and it’s exactly what I need, then I move on. I don’t cover it a lot. I get it and I move on. I guess that takes a bit of courage. It takes a bit of experience, knowing what the editor’s going to need and what the producers are going to want, but that’s how I work. I try not to over shoot.
Larry Jordan: I know that feeling. There’s a point where you’re doing an interview, and you say “Yes, I’ve got it. That’s my beginning, that’s my ending.” And I try to describe it to somebody else, and all I can say is, it just feels right in my gut which is not a really teachable moment.
Cirina Catania: Right, it’s that golden moment. It is in your gut. Something happens in your heart, and you go, “Wow, that was a great quote. That’s going to be the ending of that piece.” Or, “That was a great quote, that’s going to take us directly into the next act.” So it’s great. One thing I do want to tell people, if you’re writing for television, make sure that you know what the clock is at each of your networks, because they’re different at each network. The producer should give you the clock so that you know how many acts you’re going to have to write to, and what you need to get, and anticipate that during the shoot.
Larry Jordan: Well the last thing I want to cover is, I know you’re a member of the Writers Guild of America. Why did you decide to join?
Cirina Catania: I love the Guild. I’m very pro Guild. Michael Horton and I probably have a disagreement about that. I’m very pro Guild. I know that when I have the Guild behind me, I have a legal department that can help me if I get in a jam. I know exactly what the minimums are for whatever I’m writing and I can gear my talks to my clients and I can just say, “Hey, go on the Writers Guild site, and it’ll tell you what the minimum is.” I normally don’t work for the minimum, but it gives us something to talk about. Then the Writers Guild makes sure that my checks come in time. I love that, because as a creative person, or as creative people I should say, many of us are uncomfortable with the money side of things and if you don’t have an agent to handle all of that for you, the Guilds are there for you, and they back you up. It’s wonderful.
Larry Jordan: So in the few seconds that we’ve got left, what advice would you give to other writers who are starting out in the industry?
Cirina Catania: Trust yourself. Write something and apply for jobs for the type of creative atmosphere that you’re going to be happy in. If you’re happy as a creative person, you’re going to do really good work and I think that’s the most important thing. I’ve turned jobs down because I’ve said to myself, “I don’t want to live with that subject matter for the next six months.” So find something you love and write to that.
Larry Jordan: For people who want to know what you’re in love with at the moment Cirina, where can we go on the web?
Cirina Catania: They can go to thecataniagroup.com or my blog is USTimes.biz.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, thecataniagroup.com and Cirina Catania’s the lead creative and film maker for The Catania Group. Cirina, always fun talking with you. You take care and travel safely.
Cirina Catania: Thanks Larry, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney of counsel at Troy Gould in Los Angeles. He’s also the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter, and best of all, he’s a regular here on The Buzz. Hello Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan Handel: Larry, it’s a pleasure as always.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan, tonight’s show is talking with writers about writing, and we often talk with you a lot about the articles that you’ve written, but not the process of writing them. What was it that got you interested in news magazine writing in the first place?
Jonathan Handel: I kind of fell into it. I refer to myself as the accidental journalist. In the run up to the writers’ strike, and then during the writers’ strike and SAG stalemate, so that’s the 2007 to 2009 period, I started blogging, and was very quickly asked by the Huffington Post to blog on their platform and at the same time started making media appearances. One guy wrote to me and said, “Thank you for your balanced and fair coverage.” I’m looking at this, like, coverage? I’m not a journalist, I’m a lawyer who’s blogging. Meanwhile, I was getting encouragement, there was a New York Times reporter who said, “We’re going to be working at the same place one day.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” An LA Times guy stopped quoting me because he said I was a competitor now. I wasn’t seeing it, but a year after all that labor stuff had quieted down, I got a call in 2010 out of the blue from the Hollywood Reporter offering me a job on the phone. They said, “We hear that the Teamsters might strike now. Do you know anything about it?” I’m like, “Do I know anything about it? That’s a weird interview question.” So I said, “Well no.” “Well would you like to look into it, and write about it for us?” At this point I’m staring at my phone because in 2010, the economic recession and the internet had caused reporters to get laid off across the country, and here’s this guy offering me a job. So I said, “Does it pay?” and he said, “Yes, not as well as being a lawyer, but yes.” He himself is actually a former lawyer, and I of course continue to practice as a lawyer, and work as a journalist. So I said “Yes,” and I wrote about five stories on the Teamsters who ultimately did not strike, then I wrote some more stories, and then they offered me masthead and said “Do you want to be our labor person?” So since then, I’ve written about 900 stories or so, mostly on entertainment labor issues, but a significant number on other legal issues, LGBT, general business, occasional general assignment, the whole range. It’s extremely satisfying, and among other things, unlike print journalists, we get to write our own headlines, and I love the wit and compactness of that form.
Larry Jordan: How do you determine which stories to cover?
Jonathan Handel: A small minority, my editor will ask me to cover something. The largest number is probably driven by outside information, notifications, either a press release, or a tip from a source. And then a certain percentage are completely self generated where I’ll look at some situation and see something, and say, “You know, this needs to be written about.”
Larry Jordan: The Hollywood Reporter as you mentioned, is transitioning to a new editor in chief. What’s your opinion on the change?
Jonathan Handel: Janice did an amazing job of pivoting from a five day a week trade publication that was very significant as a trade publication, but was somewhat in Variety’s shadow, to turning this into a weekly magazine, coupled with a website, and doing it in a way that’s brought a lot of traffic, a lot of awareness. A great looking magazine, solid content, great content online, so it’ll be tough in that way to see her go. She’s been promoted into the parent company, but Matt has been an amazing editor. He really is a smart guy, he’s personable, he knows both business and the creative aspects, and I think it’ll be fine. I think it’ll be great.
Larry Jordan: What do you find is the biggest challenge in being a journalist, which is different than being a writer?
Jonathan Handel: I can’t touch type. I’m very clumsy physically, and so the tight deadlines for many stories is the biggest challenge for me. What I usually don’t have a problem with is formulating what I’m going to write. You know, people talk about writer’s block and stuff like that, not really a luxury that a journalist can afford. Some stories are difficult. When you cover a panel, you know, the Produced By Conference or something like that, and four different people talking about different aspects of entertainment finance. You can’t write a story, he said this, and she said that, so you have to sit there and figure out what the story is here, what just happened? What’s the through line, or the common aspect to what I just heard? Framing the story, figuring out the angle sometimes is easy, but other times you sit there for a minute, but it’s a fun process.
Larry Jordan: Jonathan where can we go on the web to learn more about what you’re writing?
Jonathan Handel: Jhandel.com and thrlabor, the Hollywood Reporter Labor, thrlabor.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, thrlabor.com. Jonathan Handel is an entertainment and technology attorney, and the contributing editor on entertainment labor issues for the Hollywood Reporter. Jonathan, thanks for joining us today.
Jonathan Handel: Larry it is a pleasure and a privilege in fact.
Larry Jordan: Philip Hodgetts is a technologist and the CEO of Intelligent Assistance, and Lumberjack System. Even better, he’s the technology expert for The Buzz. Hello Philip, welcome back.
Philip Hodgetts: Hi Larry, nice to be back.
Larry Jordan: My unofficial research tells me that there are more unscripted videos shot than scripted ones. This means that we need to have a system of remembering who said what on which piece of media. Cirina mentioned that you’ve created something that can help in this process. What have you guys invented?
Philip Hodgetts: Well, we’ve mentioned Lumberjack System before, and of course where this fits into the writing is that you cannot write about things that you do not know that you have. If you don’t know what’s been shot, if you don’t know the content of interviews, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to write a viable script without any of that basic information, and that’s where Lumberjack comes in. In two ways it affects writers particularly, one is that it’s a logging tool so real time logging at the shoot and then when you come back into Final Cut Pro X and I should point out this is Final Cut Pro X only. When you come back into Final Cut Pro X all the media is already logged for you, so instead of having a long period going back over everything that was shot, you immediately have everything organized and you can find what you’ve got and really … topic that you’ve logged during the shoot so you have a timeline that puts together all of the quotes relevant to a particular topic across all of your shoot. That’s really exciting for a writer to sit down and work with those. Or for an editor to take that starting point and to, in our technical term, ‘polish that turd.’ The other way that Lumberjack fits into the writer’s world is that we align transcripts with multi-pamphlets or with synchronized clips or regular clips within final Cut Pro X. So it has transcripts from any source from … and they make a very specific Lumberjack compatible version for it and then you can rely on that with your media. That means that when the editor gets the script back from the writer, there is a ready way to find where each quote is simply by searching within Final Cut Pro X for the particular quote that the author has used which is probably faster than finding it by time code versions.
Larry Jordan: What do we need for hardware to run this system?
Philip Hodgetts: Any iOS device in the field. If you’re working with an android device, you can work with the web logger, but we strongly recommend the iOS app for logging in the field, either on an ipad or an iPhone. And a Macintosh for the desktop app which you probably have because you’re running Final Cut Pro X. But in fact there are a couple of desktop apps. There is the main Lumberyard app which merges the real time logs with your media and Final Cut Pro via XML. There’s also a note logging app for taking more detailed notes, and there’s an app for logging material that was shot before Lumberjack was created. You really only need an iOS device and a subscription to Lumberjack.
Larry Jordan: I have to ask, why did you call it Lumberjack?
Philip Hodgetts: It was one of those things that seemed really obvious to me at the time, almost to the point of being a little over the top but Lumberjack is a logger. It’s nowhere near as obvious as I thought it was going to be, and I find myself explaining it more often than I thought I should, but so Lumberjack is a logger. I guess they call them timber workers now, but in my day, a lumberjack was a logger, and logging is a skill that we’re losing. People are not spending the time in the field logging the material the way that they should, and people are not spending the time in the edit bay logging the material the way that they should, and so until we get this all done automatically, as we talked about before, artificial intelligence, the better solution is to make it easy and early in the process that we get the logging.
Larry Jordan: Can this be used by a team, or is it just for one person?
Philip Hodgetts: Absolutely, teams are fully supported. You can have multiple people logging the same event, and we will merge all of those logs into continuous ranges where they overlap. You can have different people logging different events at the same time, so if you had different cameras on the same event, and different logs, and they would be separated by events inside Final Cut Pro X, and any combination of that that you want to run. So it’s absolutely a team system. You can run as many concurrent events as you want through the system for one subscription.
Larry Jordan: For people that need more information, where can they go on the web?
Philip Hodgetts: Lumberjacksystem.com is where you’ll find everything and I just spent a little time making the help a little bit clearer.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, lumberjacksystem.com, Philip Hodgetts is the CEO of Lumberjack System. Philip, thanks for joining us today.
Philip Hodgetts: Nice to be back, thanks Larry.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Anne Toole writes video games, web series, television comics, stories with a light tone and a dark underbelly. Most recently she created a web series for MDR Funk in Germany. In addition, she earned a Writers Guild nomination for her work on ‘The Witcher,’ and wrote for the Emmy winning web series, ‘The Lizzie Bennett Diaries.’ Hello Anne, welcome.
Anne Toole: Hello.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in writing scripts?
Anne Toole: The alternative would have been writing something really boring like web copy. I’d always wanted to work in entertainments, and when I started exploring the options it seemed like nothing could really get started unless there was a script involved, so that’s how I chose writing.
Larry Jordan: I was intrigued with your script for the German internet series, which I would pronounce, except I would totally mutilate the name. Are you bilingual?
Anne Toole: No, I don’t speak German. I created the show and outlined all hundred episodes in English, and then we passed it onto a German writer.
Larry Jordan: Interesting. So what happens if they don’t follow your plot lines?
Anne Toole: Well they have to because if they go too far afield they’ll get lost. We also had the issue of a very short production time which is part of the reason why we didn’t have any read in English and then have it translated, for example. There just wasn’t time. So we were greenlit, and then we started production maybe two months later. We didn’t have a lot of time, and they were still writing scripts while they were in production, so I wrote the outlines with the idea that they would be helpful to the writer, and hopefully not make them feel straitjacketed and it seems, when I watch it, I definitely see moments that were ones that I created in the outline. So I think they’re on target.
Larry Jordan: You’ve also written for computer games. How is writing for computer games different from writing, say for a web series?
Anne Toole: First of all a web series is much more linear. Oftentimes in games you want to have a more open feeling, so that the player has the illusion of choice, if not actual choice because if you force the player to do something they don’t want to do, then they’re not going to like your game. So, you have to be more hands off in the story telling, and you have to be willing to let go a lot more.
Larry Jordan: What do you mean by hands off?
Anne Toole: Ideally, like for a quest or something, you give a player a goal, but you have to let them go about solving it in their own way. So, you can’t force the character to shoot somebody they don’t want to shoot for example, although that does happen in games. You usually want to use those moments thoughtfully, and realize that you may alienate players when you force them to do something they don’t want to do, and so ideally, you want to step back and let the player lead or give them the illusion that they’re leading the story, rather than kind of dragging them along by their nose.
Larry Jordan: Your website is Writing is Writing. But it sounds like writing is not writing, writing for a video game is different than writing for a web series, is different than writing for say television, is that a true statement?
Anne Toole: There’s a lot of differences, there’s nuances for each one. But at the end of the day, as I said, writing is writing. You still have to have good motivation, you have to have good logic, you have to have an emotional heart to every story, and if you are missing any of that, it doesn’t matter what medium you’re writing in, it’s not going to be a good story.
Larry Jordan: Do you find yourself more interested in the plotting, or the actual words?
Anne Toole: I feel almost that that’s a false choice, because you can tell a story without words. There’s this one Batman comic where it was all pictures, and there was no dialog the entire script, except for one line which was “Get out” basically. You can tell a story without writing. That’s one of the critiques in video games for example, the feeling that, “Oh, we don’t have any dialog in this, there’s no story.” Of course there’s a story. There’s a story in everything. So, that’s somewhat of, like I said, a false dichotomy because you can tell a story without putting words on the page. That’s why it’s important for video games, for writers to be involved as much as possible to help tell the story without relying on words, because a lot of the time when you’re playing a video game, you don’t want to read stuff. You don’t want to sit here and watch a scene, you just want to go out and find the thing, you know, save the princess, do whatever you want to do. You want to go out there and do something, you don’t want to just sit there and listen to words or read words. So it’s important to tell the story, to create an environment, to communicate character without relying on words.
Larry Jordan: I was reading the About page on your website, and I noticed that not only do you have a Harvard degree, but you have a Harvard degree in archaeology. How has that helped you with your writing?
Anne Toole: When I went to college, before I went, I went out to Hollywood because I wanted to get involved in entertainment, and they said, “Major in whatever you want, you’re going to learn everything you need to know your six months out here in Hollywood.” I did that, I was very interested in archaeology, I liked the fact that I could study lots of different things and it still counted towards my major. I liked the idea that I could study abroad in Egypt where I focused on Egyptology when I was there. And it has helped me a great deal, especially since I write a lot of science fiction and fantasy, a lot of that involves being inspired by ancient cultures or different cultures, and certainly the desire to research is helpful whenever I’m working on something that is maybe outside my experience.
Larry Jordan: What advice would you have for someone starting out who wants to be a writer?
Anne Toole: What helps me is, I started working in TV and I worked in the writer’s office. So I learned how scripts evolved over time, the kind of notes they were getting from studios and executives, and I learned from working writers how to write a script, how to communicate a story, how to work with actors. And I think that was really invaluable and might have been more useful than taking a screenwriting class, although obviously I took those as well.
Larry Jordan: Where can we go on the web to learn more about you and your work?
Anne Toole: I have a website which is called writingiswriting.wordpress.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, writingiswriting.wordpress.com. Anne Toole is the writer behind the website, and Anne, thanks for joining us today.
Anne Toole: Thank you so much.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Andrew David James is an actor, an entertainer, and a fight choreographer. He’s toured throughout America and Europe working in theater and film but he’s also a writer of children’s books and a playwright. Hello Andrew, welcome back.
Andrew David James: Hi Larry, thanks for having me.
Larry Jordan: So, what got you into writing?
Andrew David James: Well actually I ended up going to college to get a degree in literature and composition and that’s what I had decided to do there.
Larry Jordan: That certainly is a great way to earn a living as many English majors have discovered. What’s your preferred genre to write about?
Andrew David James: Oh that’s a good question. If I had to pick, I think that human drama is the thing that interests me the most. So real stories of real families is the thing that I’ve always been personally attracted to on stage and in novel form. But I’ve enjoyed all forms of writing, and I think each of them take different creative muscles, so I like to use all different genres when I can.
Larry Jordan: You’ve done two different things that I want to focus on. First, you’ve written a children’s book, and second, you’ve written plays, and I want to start with the children’s book, which is called A Thicket of Tales. How is writing for children different from writing for adults?
Andrew David James: Believe it or not, children seem to be much smarter than adults in a lot of ways. They’re very particular about what they like. It was interesting for me in that I didn’t really have to change my writing style, but the stories that I told were just more child friendly. You of course use a little bit different words, although I’m a believer that if you teach kids to use larger vocabulary, then they’ll use that longer in their life and they’ll benefit from it. So I didn’t dumb down the language at all, in fact there’s words in there that my kids run up and ask me what they mean all the time. But I do think that you have to focus on stories that really are applicable to their life and so I do tend to leave out a lot of complexity and things like that that we love so much in adult literature. I simplify it a little bit for kids to get to the point of the story.
Larry Jordan: You’ve managed to pick two careers that are marketing intensive. Acting and writing. How do you market your writing?
Andrew David James: Well I’m still waiting. If you find anybody who’s really good at that, you can send them my name and tell them I’ll pay them lots of money. To be honest, it’s been a lot of work in finding good people that you can work with, over and over again, who believe in your writing style and what you do. I was very fortunate in that I picked up a publisher very early on, for both of my projects, that I initially came out of school with, and it led to other things, and those strong relationships have helped with cross marketing, and then of course, using social media as that came along was very helpful as well.
Larry Jordan: You’ve done, as I said, one children’s book, but you’ve done a number of plays. How many plays have you had published?
Andrew David James: I’ve had five plays published. I’ve written 17 plays and submitted about ten of those for publication, of which five have been published.
Larry Jordan: First, congratulations, and second, are they similar in style? Are they wildly different? And are they plays for theater, or film or television?
Andrew David James: Well much like my personality, they’re all wildly different depending on the day and time I wrote them Larry. I got to tell you, it was interesting when I started writing. The first project that I wrote was a project that I was hired to write, and it was a rock musical. I was hired to write the script by an alumni of my college, and he just kind of believed in me and said, “Hey, give it a shot.” I wrote the book and the lyrics with another friend of mine, a writing partner at the time, and it turned out great and it led to other things. But there’s also a comedy that I had published, an adaptation of a classic novel, lots of different things.
Larry Jordan: Do you have a process when you’re approaching a project? Who provides the initial idea? And how do you structure the writing process?
Andrew David James: There tend to be three types of writing that I think most writers do in this town. You’re either writing your own project from scratch, and you control it all, or you’re writing somebody else’s project that you put your twist on, or you’re editing or in some way manufacturing something that somebody else wants created without your own creative content. You’re just making it look good and punching it up a little bit. For me, the ones that you obviously love the most are the ones that are all yours, but unfortunately those don’t come around all that often. Very often you’re commissioned to write something or you’re helping somebody write a book or you’re editing a script. So for me, I think my process is dictated almost solely by what will most benefit the project at the time. When I’m writing my own stuff, I sit down and I basically write non-stop until it’s finished. I don’t take many breaks and I don’t step away from it very much, it’s just get in there and muddle through and keep trains of thoughts going and juggle everything in your head and form characters and get to know them. When I’m writing somebody else’s work, I tend to kind of wade in and try to define that relationship to see what they want for their project, and get to know them as quickly as possible. Then I dig in a little bit faster, but that’s a much more methodical process. You go back and forth with a lot of exchanges and you try to learn the other person and what they want.
Larry Jordan: Are you picturing a specific audience or a specific person when you write, or are you just writing to a generic them?
Andrew David James: I always write to me. I always write something that I would be interested in, something that I would care about and then I hope and pray desperately that somebody else on the planet happens to like the same things I do.
Larry Jordan: Hopefully more than just one person. Thinking of your plays, how do you cope when a producer or director wants to make changes to your script that you’ve been working on for months and they’re just saying, “Here, change this?”
Andrew David James: When I get a play published, I very often don’t ever see it produced. For instance, a couple of the plays I did were done in England and overseas, and one in South Carolina. Things that I never got to see, so it makes it much easier that way to let the director and the producer take artistic license within the legalities of it to make it their own. Occasionally you’ll see something that really wasn’t what you wanted, or what you envisioned. But even then, it’s almost as if you’re so grateful that the work was being received by someone, that you don’t mind somebody else taking a little bit of liberty with it, and trying to make it their own. That’s what we ask actors to do all the time is take this character, and add your influence to it, and that’s what makes it so beautiful, that’s one of the great things about it.
Larry Jordan: It’s both one of the wonderful things and frustrating things of watching a kid grow up. You know what you want them to do, and then what they end up doing is not necessarily the same thing.
Andrew David James: That’s absolutely true.
Larry Jordan: I just realized, you’ve written some of your stuff under a pseudonym. Why are you hiding from the publicity of being you?
Andrew David James: I found very early on that people who, like me, who are very scattered and have lots of different interests, come off as unfocused if they don’t appear as completely dedicated to their craft, their one single part of the craft. I suppose there’s the occasional Matt Damon or Ben Affleck who gets out there, does all their own stuff, but for me I found it easier to divide those two parts of my life. Writing’s a very solitary activity, so I write under the name A.D. Hasselbring, and I’ve been focused on that since college. It allowed me, as much as anybody else, to keep it separate from the other stuff that goes on in the acting and the fight choreography world.
Larry Jordan: That gets me to a bigger question. Are you shifting out of acting and fight choreography into writing, or do you view them in balance or how do you balance between those three things?
Andrew David James: Well Larry I don’t know if you remember the last time we saw each other, but my knees were creaking so loud it was distracting from some of your camera ops. So, I’m pretty sure that my body won’t let me do fight choreography for another ten years, and I would love to write full time. I think we all have that dream of finding a cabin and being able to drop our scripts in the mail with a stamp on and be able to go back home and live in our cabin and write and be with our family. That’s usually not the way it is, so I would like to keep everything going as much as I can, but I’m definitely shifting out of the fight choreography and into the acting and the writing as much as I can.
Larry Jordan: Living in a cabin is wonderful as long as when you mail the scripts out, checks come back.
Andrew David James: Very true. I mail them to my mom and dad’s house. They don’t send me any checks though.
Larry Jordan: Are you a member of a guild or a union that’s helping you with your writing?
Andrew David James: I have been, I’ve been a member of the Mystery Writers of America, as well as the Writers Guild and of course all my scripts are registered through the Writers Guild, so even if you’re not a member, you’re still intimately involved with them for classes and workshops and for registrations and that sort of thing.
Larry Jordan: You began writing when you were in college and so you used college as the impetus to get your craft figured out. For people that haven’t had the luxury of studying writing in college, what advice would you give to a writer that wants to get started?
Andrew David James: Read, read, read. I fell in love with writing when I was probably six years old, reading western novels, adventure stories, and then as I got older I fell in love with Sir Thomas Malory, the Le Mort de Arthur and Shakespeare, and of course Arthur Miller and great playwrights who I fell in love with in high school and college. So, I think the idea of reading what somebody else writes almost forms your own voice in your head. I think that there’s a great quote that says, “Good writers borrow from other people and great writers flat out steal from them.” So I think in my life I’ve taken Mallory themes, and Osborne themes, and recrafted them and used them in my own work.
Larry Jordan: What project are you working on now?
Andrew David James: A good question. I’m actually editing two screenplays right now which have been going on for a considerable amount of time, and that takes up a lot of my year. But the one I’m most excited about, is a new work, it’s called Silence The Foe, and it’s a novel, and it’s had some good response from the first 40 pages, and it’s a psychological thriller that basically resets a gentleman who’s Jack the Ripper, in America, only he’s not Jack the Ripper, he’s just been convinced to think that he is.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I’ve learned is it’s really easy to start a book. It’s really hard to finish a book, so I wish you all the success, and for people that want more information where can they go on the web?
Andrew David James: Easiest thing to do is to go to my website, adhasselbring.com or you can see my plays at heartlandplays.com.
Larry Jordan: Heartlandplays.com. Andrew David James is the playwright and an actor. Andrew, thanks for joining us today.
Andrew David James: Thank you Larry, I appreciate it.
Larry Jordan: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: One of the things I find so fascinating is that writing is not just for a particular genre. There’s so many different ways that we put words on paper, whether we start before the play is even produced with Andrew, or we’re finding the words after the play is done as Cirina is doing, or looking for ways to use technology with programs like Lumberjack or trying to figure out what’s going in the world and explain it to the rest of us, which is what Jonathan Handel is doing.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Dan May with Blackmagic Design, Cirina Catania, film maker, Jonathan Handel with the Hollywood Reporter, and too as a writer. Philip Hodgetts with Lumberjack System, Andrew David James, author and actor, and James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There is a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online, and available to you today. And remember to check out our free weekly show newsletter that comes out every Friday. Talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
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Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz. We’ll see you next week.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.